Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) The Fan Tokaido (Folding Fan Fifty-three Stages): Kusatsu, 1865. Oban.
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The image here is of Kusatsu, the fifty-second station on the Tokaido Road, situated on Lake Biwa. Other routes across the country met at this crossing point and the station was one of the busiest junctions on the route. Yoshitoshi, no sailor judging by the filled sails and the contrary direction of the pennant flags, has clearly copied Hiroshige’s view of the lake and mountains behind from an earlier series… most likely the so-called Reisho Tokaido of 1847-52. Hiroshige’s original work was borrowed in this way by every artist finding himself in need of a backdrop!
The landscape tradition - that is landscape described for its own sake - came to Japan under Chinese influence in painting but did not flourish in printing until the nineteenth century. Travel, rather than the sublime, was the imperative here and the opening of roads such as the long standing Tokaido Highway to a wider spread of population meant that the landscape of Japan became accessible to the vast urban middle classes. In 1832, Hiroshige produced his now world-famous series depicting all the stopping points along the artery, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road, and thereafter he and other artists regularly made prints depicting this and other great sights of the Japanese hinterland. Titles of long series such as One Hundred Views of Edo or Thirty-six Views of Fuji proliferated. With increasing censorship imposed on decadent themes from 1840 by the government, landscape became a popular subject for artists and it was common to take a famous view and plant actors or folk heroes in front of it. Kunisada’s Actors at the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road series is a good example of this practice.
Landscape prints were so popular that in 1863 the Shogun commissioned twelve artists to make a series commemorating his journey to Kyoto. Yoshitoshi submitted several designs to that series; the print here is from a similar series two years later in 1865. Shogun Iemochi's journey, precipitated by the need to discuss foreign incursion into Japan, would not be the last of the 1860s and prompted the publication of several such sets. While this was a collaborative series, Yoshitoshi produced the bulk of the designs. The images that Yoshitoshi designed closely followed Hiroshige’s landscape tradition and you can see his influence in the composition and devices such as the banner in this print that press up against the picture plane itself. The name of the series obviously derives from the folding fan cartouche in the upper right. This contains not only the series name but also the station name.
The series is early in Yoshitoshi’s career… he was 26 at the time. It is a rare series and a fine, early Yoshitoshi. Full size, margined and in fine condition. Colour and impression are all fine.
Signed Yoshitoshi hitsu; published by Ki-ya Sojiro.
36cm x 25cm.