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Tsukioka Yoshitoshi Oil Paintings

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi was one of the last great artists of the Japanese woodblock print tradition. He specialized in historical, legendary, and supernatural themes with occasional return to the subject of beauties, so prevalent in earlier ukiyo-e prints.

Yoshitoshi was born in the Shimbashi district of old Edo, in 1839. His father was a wealthy merchant who had bought his way into samurai status. At three years old, Yoshitoshi left home to live with his uncle, a pharmacist with no son, who was very fond of his nephew. At the age of five, he became interested in art and started to take lessons from his uncle. In 1850, when he was 11 years old, Yoshitoshi was apprenticed to Kuniyoshi, one of great masters of the Japanese woodblock print. Kuniyoshi gave his apprentice a new name (he was originally named Owariya Yonejiro). Although he was not seen as Kuniyoshi's successor during his lifetime, he is now recognized as the most important pupil of Kuniyoshi.

During his training, Yoshitoshi concentrated on refining his draftsmanship skills and copying his mentor’s sketches. Kuniyoshi emphasized drawing from real life, which was unusual in Japanese training because the artist’s goal was to capture the subject matter rather than making a literal interpretation of it. Yoshitoshi also learned the elements of western drawing techniques and perspective through studying Kuniyoshi’s collection of foreign prints and engravings.

Yoshitoshi's first print appeared in 1853, but nothing else appeared for many years, perhaps as a result of the illness of his master Kuniyoshi during his last years. Although his life was hard after Kuniyoshi's death in 1861, he did manage to produce some work, 44 prints of his being known from 1862. In the next two years he had sixty-three of his designs, mostlykabuki prints, published. He also contributed designs to the 1863 Tokaido series by Utagawa School artists organized under the auspices of Kunisada.

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