Japanese woodblock print
NOTES/DATE/ETC: 1885, first and only edition, published by Matsui Eikichi
SIZE IN INCHES: 9.25 x 27.75 inches
COMMENTS: Rarely seen. The old hag of Adichigahara prepares to kill a pregnant victim.
IN THE FOLKTALE "THE HAG OF ADACHIGAHARA," a cannibalistic old woman preys upon travellers, particularly pregnant women and children, on the Adachi Moor in northern Japan. In this scene, the hag is sharpening the knife she will use to kill her heavily pregnant captive and the unborn child. Created in 1885, The lonely house on Adachi Moor is macabre but, by not showing the actual moment of violence, it is less bloody than some of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s earlier prints, such as those for the 1867 series Twenty-eight famous murders.
Yoshitoshi is considered the greatest ukiyo-e woodblock print artist of the Meiji era (1868–1912). With periods of poverty and mental illness, the artist’s life may be seen to mirror the tumultuous times in which he lived. Japan was grappling with the demise of the Tokugawa shogunate, rice shortages, sporadic lawlessness and the new presence of Europeans and Americans. Yoshitoshi was concerned about the erosion of Japanese culture and chose to work with traditional themes, including horror—a popular genre in Japanese theatre, literature and art during the nineteenth century.
While traditional in his choice of subject matter, Yoshitoshi was an innovator in style and technique, demonstrated by his masterful use of perspective and realism, his expressive line work and his bold adoption of the synthetic inks that began to replace vegetable colours in the 1860s. He created prints of great beauty and dramatic power. Yoshitoshi used a variety of formats, including the vertical oban diptych that is so effective in this work.
Although one of Yoshitoshi’s most notorious prints, The lonely house on Adachi Moor is surprisingly rare. The Japanese authorities suppressed it when it was first released, and a planned second edition was never published.