Utagawa Yoshiiku (1833-1904) Biographies of the Heroes of the Taiheiki Number 52: Horio Mosuke Yoshiharu (1544 - 1611), 1867. Chuban.
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Utagawa Yoshiiiku was a pupil of the great Kuniyoshi and lifelong rival of Yoshitoshi, a fellow student. After the death of Kuniyoshi, Yoshiiku was the most eminent of his pupils for at least a decade until others, notably Yoshitoshi, went on to outshine him. As was so often the case pupils of great artists were prone to imitation and Yoshiiku is no exception to this. In this series of fifty prints, the style of Kuniyoshi is most evident... not only in the drawing and the gestures of the individual warriors but also in the specific details of character and event. Kuniyoshi had produced a near identical series on the subject in 1849.
The popularity of the warrior print was influenced very much by Kuniyoshi himself but also by social upheavals during the mid nineteenth century. There were minor civil wars and skirmishes right up to the eventual restoration of the monarchy in 1868. Japanese society was very much divided between its historic past and the need to modernise and defend itself against potential western and american armour.
In this context, these prints are a nostalgic reflection of past victories and a a kind of warning for the future... this series is nearly the last produced in the distinctive musha-e style of the Utagawa School. This print of Yoshiharu shows him heroically defeating a giant boar with his bare hands, a subject used by Kuniyoshi in his print from the series. Yoshiharu was subsequently taken on as retainer to the war lord Hideyoshi and distinguished himself through battles and sieges during his service. He was richly rewarded with land and estates for his loyalty and was latterly known as Hotoke no Mosuke, meaning saintly man.
This is a fine print of Yoshiharu, the boar is richly rendered, the colours and impression are very good and it is in very good condition.
Signed Chokaro Yoshiiku ga; published by Hiroko.
24.5 x 18 cm.