Yoshitoshi was the last great woodblock print master of the Ukiyo-e tradition, and 100 Aspects of the Moon is regarded as his greatest achievement. The series brings to life the history and mythology of ancient Japan. In all 100 prints the moon figures prominently. Sometimes clearly visible in the design and sometimes referred to in the beautiful poems in the text cartouche.
In his early days, Yoshitoshi’s style was clearly influenced by his master, the famous Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861). Over the years, he created his own style, in which he was able to display his diverse oeuvre with expressions of emotion in an imaginative way. On the other hand Yoshitoshi is also known for his designs of bloody and violent scenes. With his distinctive style of dramatic lines and gorgeous colours he was soon recognised by his contemporaries as the greatest of his time.
Yoshitoshi grew up in a period of political tension. At risk of colonisation by Western powers, Japan had to modernize after being cut off from the outside world for centuries. The transition from the old feudal time to the new government took place in 1868 when Yoshitoshi was 29 years old. It affected society in many ways. Politics, science, philosophy, military and technology even aesthetic ideas and fashion were taken over from the Western world. Although Yoshitoshi was interested in this, he was concerned about the government abandoning Japanese culture and traditions. In his moon series, which was designed during this period, he therefore goes back to the traditional Japanese culture, folklore and literature, so important to many at the time.
The subjects of the prints vary from historical figures such as the novelist and court lady Murasaki Shikibu and samurai warlords like Takeda Shingen and Toyotomi Hideyoshi to mythological creatures and scenes from classical Japanese theatre.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is the triptych called ‘Fujiwara Yasumasa plays the flute by moonlight’ which is considered to be Yoshitoshi’s ultimate masterpiece. In this print we see the aristocrat Fujiwara Yasumasa playing the flute under an impressive full moon. Behind him, hidden in the reeds blowing in a strong wind, is the bandit Hakamadare Yasusuke who wants to attack him. However, entranced by the beauty of Yasumasa's flute play, he abandons the assault.
Alongside Japanese woodblock prints, the exhibition features other objects such as netsuke, metalwork and lacquerware from the museum’s own holdings, all related to the Japanese moon-culture.
Yoshitoshi's 100 Aspects of the Moon is very popular among collectors. However, it rarely happens that a complete set in an excellent condition is brought together. The Museum of East Asian Art Cologne will show you one of the finest known sets in the world, which is currently housed in the renowned collection of Japanese print Museum Nihon no Hanga in Amsterdam.
Fördererkreis des Museums für Ostasiatische Kunst Köln
Orientstiftung zur Förderung der Ostasiatischen Kunst
© Nihon no hanga, Amsterdam
Tuesday to Sunday
11am – 5pm
Every first Thursday in the month
11am – 10pm
Museum is closed on December 24th, Christmas Day (25 Dec), New Year's Eve (31 Dec) and New Year's Day (1 Jan). Museum is opend on Easter Monday and Whit Monday.
€ 9.50 / reduced € 5.50
KölnTag on the first Thursday of the month (except public holidays): free admission to the Museum for all Cologne residents.
How to get here
Public transport: Tram routes 1 and 7 and bus route 142, alight at ‘Universitätsstrasse’
There is a car park at the museum
The museum is barrier-free. Disabled toilet available.