Yoshitoshi, 100 Aspects of the Moon - Gen'i Composes a Poem to the Moon

Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: Gen’i Composes a Poem to the Moon, 1887. Oban.

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Yoshitoshi’s late series, The One Hundred Aspects of the Moon is a staggering achievement. The modernity of the idea, the style of his mature drawing and design, the conceptual leaps that he makes with each piece make it the outstanding print series of the second half of the nineteenth century. 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.    

Gen’i was a priest of the sixteenth century during the period of the warring clans. He was astute in rescuing Nobunaga’s son after his assassination and was rewarded by his successor, Hideyoshi. From then on, Gen’i was an important mediator between the various factions during an unusually dangerous period of Japanese history. Yoshitoshi shows him at a lacquered table, composing a poem to the moon. The moon is just visible in the top left, behind the blind. This may carry a meaning about the hidden nature of Buddha (the moon in this instance) and the material world, Gen’i, and the mediation of meditation. Whilst interested in Christianity (introduced by Portuguese missionaries), he was also responsible for the test of dissident Christians which required them to trample on the image of the cross.

This is a very fine composition and a great piece of drawing. Later editions have the green robe covered in rich decoration, the drawing is enough in itself to carry the foreground though and this early edition is beautifully rendered. A fine example of an early edition. Colour, condition and impression are all fine.

Published by Akiyama Buemon.

37cm x 24.5cm.