Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) 100 Aspects of the Moon: Cassia Tree Moon, 1886. Oban.
This major print is from Yoshitoshi’s most famous and successful series, 100 Aspects of the Moon. Considered to be his finest work, it occupied the last seven years of his life, each new print being issued at intervals of a few months. The public interest in the series was intense and made Yoshitoshi, after years of financial hardship, famous and secure. There is a great deal of academic speculation as to the narrative of the series; most of the prints draw upon scenes of Chinese and Japanese history and mythology and each contains an image of the moon, but there is no clear theme and no commentary. Yoshitoshi was however sceptical of the Meiji rush to modernisation and it is generally accepted that the series is a fond reflection of the past. Stylistically the prints are modern, unique and easily recognisable. Yoshitoshi developed a style that owed much to western influence and there is a tension here between what is represented and how it is rendered. The series remains hugely collectible and prices for early editions such as this one remain high. Note: there are many posthumous prints from the original, but worn blocks circulating and it is wise to be cautious when purchasing from this series.
The print shows Wu Gang, a woodcutter of the Han Dynasty whose wish was to be immortal. His arrogance angered the God of the Heavens who offered him the chance of eternal life if he chopped down the five hundred foot Cassia tree that grew on the moon. Every time Wu Gang struck the tree it magically healed itself. He remains there, according to legend, chopping down the immovable tree and gaining his longed for immortality.
This is a very fine print from the early edition of the series; the writing in the left margin is the artist’s address which only appears in the early editions. The two cartouches at upper right contain the title of the print and the name of the series. This is an early design from 1886. Beautifully drawn and exceptionally well printed, the colour and impression are very good. Some minor scuffing, otherwise fine.
Signed Yoshitoshi, seal Taiso, carver Yamamoto, published by Akiyama Buemon.