Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Twenty-Four Hours at Shinbashi and Yanagibashi (Shinryu nijushi toki) 4 pm: Geisha Holding a Cord in her Lips, 1880. Oban.
In the late Edo period the area of Shinbashi and Yanagibashi became the new focus of entertainment and prostitution. What became the main Tokyo Railway Station opened here in 1872 and by the 1880‘s, with modernisation in full spate, the area came to symbolise the new, patriotic, modern Japan. There is a great deal in this series that aspires to the modern, in spite of the traditions of the geisha and of prostitution that it depicts. The notion of documenting the courtesan’s day was not new and had been exploited already by artists such as Utamaro. In this series, Yoshitoshi depicts twenty-four scenes of women performing different tasks, one for each hour of the day. Notable is Yoshitoshi’s use of the Western 24-hour clock. Japan had only recently moved from the traditional Chinese calendar and this device, along with the modern style of drawing that he was confidently mastering, gives the series a deliberately contemporary feel. Each of the prints shows a head and shoulders image of a geisha; the scenes are mundane, a geisha in bed smoking a pipe, or as in this print, pausing in the act of dressing. At the top of each sheet is a large cartouche which illustrates a prose piece written by Takabatake Ransen in the gesaku tradition, a style that requires coterie knowledge to be fully understood.
This is a very beautiful piece, the figure of the woman predicting some of his later series of individual portraits of women. Yoshitoshi was instrumental in picturing women as individuals rather than ‘types’. Both he and his contemporary Kunichika, produced many prints which specifically portray women as individual characters with distinct and very modern personalities - this being a good example. The drawing here is deft and the print quality is also outstanding. Colour, impression and condition are all fine.
Signed, oju Yoshitoshi ga. Published by Morimoto Junzaburo, Nakamura Mitsu, engraved by Hori Yata, text by Takabatake Ransen.
35cm x 25cm.