YOSHITOSHI TSUKIOKA:The 53 Stations of the Tokaido: Hara - 1865

After Hiroshige's Famous series of the same name, many ukiyo-é artists created their own series on the famous road. I include one of Yoshitoshi's to demonstrate the difference between the young artist, before his depression, and the master, after his recovery and artistic breakthrough. Were it not that I have seen several prints from this series -- all involving a procession on the government's most important highway -- I would not recognise the work as Yoshitoshi.

Most of Yoshitoshi's early work, say, pre-1872, has this same stiff, derivative quality. From 1872 through about 1878, one can track his discovery and mastery of new approaches to composition, colouring and line, and of the gestures and emotions of real people in real situations. By 1879, while his subject matter remained steeped in tradition, he had developed an approach to his art so completely new that the implications are still being worked out by today's equivalent of the woodblock artist in Japan, the manga artists. Ironically, most of them, in their turn, have become captives of their tradition, so that modern manga often looks as if it had been turned out by a factory staffed by Yoshitoshi apprentices.

Larger image: 198K.
Yoshitoshi biography.


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