September 4, 2014
This has to be the most grisly ukiyo-e print I’ve ever seen:
It’s from Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s ’28 Famous Murders with Verse’ and the others are suitably gruesome. Yoshitoshi is regarded as the last great master of Ukiyo-e (he died 1892) and his work was brought to my attention by the quite wonderful Saladin Ahmed (he’s well worth a follow and his book is pretty damn good too, though that’s a post for another time).
He was a student of Kuniyoshi (who we’ve covered once or twice before). To my knowledge Kuniyoshi never produced anything as gruesome (though he did plenty of body horror and genital demons, including one series showcasing the versatility of an ample scrotum) but you can see influences in some of Yoshitoshi’s earlier work; his Battle of Cats and Mice (above) chimes with Kuniyoshi’s cat prints and they both have a fondness for comedic animal prints.
Some of Yoshitoshi’s warrior depictions are definitely bloodier and more brutal than most prints I’ve seen before (I’ve also spotted at least two trussed pregnant women in his works) but his fantastical stuff is just great. You can browse almost all of his works at yoshitoshi.net, and I’d recommend Crazy Pictures of placed in Tokyo, New Forms of 36 Ghosts, and One Hundred Ghost Stories of China and Japan, but they’re all very very good. So much so I just want to embed them all here! But I’ll limit myself to a few.
As an aside I’ve just noticed the works of Japanese woodblock masters sound a lot like Buzzfeed articles.