Yoshitoshi, 100 Aspects of the Moon - Zi Luo Reading by the Moon

Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) 100 Aspects of the Moon #57: Zi Luo Reading by The Moon, 1888. Oban.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

This wonderful print is a tour-de-force of design and skill, a masterpiece of the wood engraver’s art and a moving example of the close relationship between carver and artist - there is perhaps none better. On the drawing and interpretation of this fine print I will quote John Stevenson’s definitive text from his monograph on this series:

"Yoshitoshi’s engravers could reproduce his brushstrokes almost perfectly, what we see in his prints is what the artist brushed on his final drawing. The engraver’s skill was astounding… this design is a good case-study of Yoshitoshi’s brushwork.  It was engraved by Enkatsu, who carved the blocks for forty-two of the designs of this series.  The strokes of the background have a hard texture appropriate for the rocks.  A controlled dry effect has been achieved by a split brush technique. The lines of the clothes and bag are full and overflowing while the beard and straw hat are carefully detailed and very well carved.”

The subject of this beautiful piece is the Confucian scholar Zi Luo, a self taught writer who tramped across the mountains for miles to bring his aged parents rice - the sack that he carries on his back. Here he is seen studying by the light of the moon. One of his famous sayings goes:

“When I was poor I carried rice on my back to support those that gave me birth; now, however much I would like to bring them rice again, I cannot call them back to life.”

Yoshitoshi not only uses the dry brush technique for the drawing, he has also utilised the fine bokashi shading of the printer to evoke the clouds and mists of the mountain lit by moonlight. The print is rich in gauffrage (deep embossing), in the texture of the bag, the delineation of the clouds and the geometry of the cartouche. There is a fuller explanation of the techniques used on this print at the Toshidama blog.

A fine print, in very fine condition. Full size with margins, the print is rich in detail and technical bravura. Fine colour, impression and condition. Early, and of the first edition.

Taiso seal, published by Akiyama Buemon.

35.5 x 24 cm.