Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892) created some of the most spectacular designs in 19th century Japanese woodblock prints. The last comprehensive overview of Yoshitoshi’s work was published almost twenty years ago, but advances in scholarship since then have resulted in a re-evaluation of his work. This publication draws from the Ed Freis collection, which was assembled over the course of thirty years. It illustrates numerous works from Yoshitoshi’s early career, including several prints that have to date not appeared in Western language catalogues.

The two essays in the volume by Chris Uhlenbeck and Amy Reigle Newland take new approaches in the discussion of the art and life of Yoshitoshi, and depend little on the usual, at times dubitable, sources frequently used to paint a portrait of the artist. Chris Uhlenbeck offers insight into Yoshitoshi through a discussion of extant prints. He charts the development of Yoshitoshi’s work from the late 1850s, when he received his first substantial commissions from various publishers, to his death at the age fifty-three in 1892. Amy Reigle Newland establishes Yoshitoshi’s position among his peers using contemporary accounts found in types of popular guidebooks known as nazorae saiken(ki) (‘riddle guidebooks’) and in the emerging press.

The more than 160 illustrations in the volume are fully annotated. Ed Freis has selected a handful of Yoshitoshi’s signature works to highlight the details of process and variant editions. Maureen de Vries succinctly describes the often complex, layered iconography of Yoshitoshi’s imagery. Robert Schaap has created a valuable pictorial appendix of all Yoshitoshi’s documented serial works.

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"Yoshitoshi. Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection is a multi-faceted book. It can be read as an exhibition catalogue clustered around visual material and factual information related to the artistic practices of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. Above all, it is a superb reference book for Western print collectors. In addition, it also opens up new venues of inquiry into the relatively little explored Meiji publishing industry, which will hopefully boost future scholarly interest in the topic."
Ewa Machotka, Leiden University, East Asian Publishing and Society (2014) Volume 4 Issue 1
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