Brave Warriors and Fantastic Tales: The World According to Yoshitoshi

Selected works

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  • Text: Among the last great ukiyo-e artists of Meiji Japan, Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839–1892) reigned supreme for his daring prints based on various tales and legends of ancient Japan and China. He made use of Western colors and inks for dramatic effect, yet stayed loyal to the woodblock print techniques that had guided past masters. In his short life, he created numerous series exploring a multiplicity of themes related to Japan's rich history. We present selections for cour of these series. In both Twenty-four Accomplishments in Imperial Japan and Brave Warriors, legendary Japanese heroes and warriors come to life to bring honor to themselves and their masters. In One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, exquisitely attired men and women are cast as theatrical players in settings that evoke melancholy, romance, an bravery. Finally, New Forms of Thirty-Six Strange Things features fantastic creatures that both frighten and amuse the viewer with their dramatic designs.
  • Left: Fukami Jikyu Challenges the Moon
    Jikyu joins a vigilante group associated with excessive behavior, elegant clothing, and pride. He writes a poem claiming the moon is fruitlessly trying to outshine him.

    Right: Kesa Gozen Writes Last Words Before Dying in Place of Her Husband
    Fearing for her husband, Gozen pretends to agree to Morito’s overtures if he will first kill her husband. She takes her husband’s place in bed, then Morito mistakenly cuts off her head and is appalled to see that he has murdered his obsession.

  • Left: Chang E Flees to the Moon
    During an eclipse, Hou Yi fires arrows into the sky. When the moon reappears, he is rewarded with a magical elixir. His wife, Chang E, drinks it and escapes to the moon.

    Right: The Old Woman Retrieves Her Arm
    Tsuna cut off the arm of something touching him as he slept. Monks advise him to put the strange arm in a box and allow no one to see it. His elderly aunt arrives, and he accedes to her request to view the marvel: the aunt turns out to be the shapeshifting demon Ibaraki, who flies away with the arm—his own.

  • Left: The Enlightenment of Jigokudayu
    A courtesan converts to religious life. Her robe includes scenes of the tortures of hell, and her sash displays an image of the bodhisattva of compassion.

    Right: Hangakujo on a Rearing Horse
    The daughter of a samurai family, Jo raises an army to defend a fort against a superior force. The defense collapses after she is wounded and captured.

  • Left: Noto-no-kami Noritsune and Kuro Hangan Minamoto Yoshitsune Fighting on Ship’s Prow
    Strongman Noritsune leaps upon a ship to challenge the young general Yoshitsune, who nimbly leaps to a faraway vessel.

    Right: Funada Nyudo Yoshimasa Grappling with Sachujo Nitta Yoshisada in Midair
    This print is a mystery, since Yoshimasa is known as a loyal retainer of Yoshisada.

  • Left: Uesugi Kenshin Nyudo Terutora Riding into Battle
    Kenshin was considered the most brilliant military strategist of the 16th century.

    Right: Okubo Hikozaemon Tadanori Rescues Tokugawa Ieyasu on the Battlefield
    Tadanori carries the future shogun from a battlefield after the siege of Osaka Castle.

  • Left: Nawa no Nagashige Helping Emperor Godaigo Escape from Oki Island to Hoki
    Nagashige offers to carry the escaping emperor on his back, since Godaigo has never had to walk outside.

    Right: Lunacy: Unrolling Letters
    Ochiyo receives news of her lover’s death and wanders, mad with grief, unrolling and rolling his letters until she dies of exhaustion.

  • Left: Kenshin Watches Geese in the Moonlight
    General Kenshin, a brilliant strategist, watches geese and successfully changes battle plans based on their formation.

    Right: Gamo Sadahide’s Servant, Toki Motosada, Hurls a Demon King to the Ground at Mount Inohana
    Motosada sees phantoms cavorting, and one possesses a wooden temple guardian. He grapples with the guardian, and when he throws it down, the apparitions vanish.

  • Left: Danjo Matsunaga Hisahide Preparing to Commit Suicide
    The army besieging Hisahide’s castle demands two things: Hisahide’s head and a specific teacup, which the 70-year-old defiantly smashes before killing himself.

    Right: Shinchunagon Taira no Tomomori Sweeping the Deck
    Realizing defeat is imminent, Tomomori calmly tidies the imperial barge so that the enemy would not have the satisfaction of claiming a ship left in disarray.