Yoshitoshi, Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Invasion of Korea

Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea, 1866.  Oban triptych.

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A tremendous and fairly early triptych by Yoshitoshi. Yoshitoshi produced many triptychs of Kuniyoshi-inspired war scenes from the period of the warring states and the great ‘Pacification’. Hideyoshi served under Oda Nobunanga and united Japan, becoming the first de facto national leader after Nobunanga’s death in 1582. Hideyoshi planned the invasion of Korea partly for domestic political reasons - the reason even today for foreign adventures - and partly for the resources of land and rice that Korea offered. The venture was initially successful but the logistics of occupation led to the collapse of the initiative and and Hideyoshi’s death in 1598. He was succeeded by his son and the enterprise of a united Japan was eventually completed by Tokugawa Iesayu in 1600 leading to the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate.

The print does not record a specific event, rather glorifies the exoticism of the expedition and the heroism and drive of Hideyoshi. In many ways this is a purely artistic piece since there are no major compositional constraints on Yoshitoshi and he can use his considerable abilities to construct this tremendous, volatile panorama. A battle rages beneath a gushing waterfall crashing over picturesque rocks. Bodies tumble, and the scene is like a great fantasy complete with gigantic peony flowers. Hideyoshi stands heroic in the right hand sheet, flinging bodies to left and right as men crash around him in scenes of chaos. In the centre, a grimacing, oddly western warrior straight from a Kuniyoshi Suikoden print, brandishes an axe of comically grand proportions.

One cannot underestimate the extraordinary influence of domestic mannered Japanese prints on early European modernism. Equally, the influence of European art on Japanese printmakers (via illegally imported engravings) is often overlooked. This Yoshitoshi expands on the battle scenes of Kuniyoshi, his teacher, but they are both indebted in both composition and in incidental detail to the works of the fifteenth century classical painters. The rearing horse in the left sheet for example is pure Uccello

A great Yoshitoshi triptych. These prints are uncommon; this is in very good condition. Colour and impression very good some slight trimming and backed.

70 x 34 cm.

£650.00