Demons from the Haunted World: Supernatural Art by Yoshitoshi is part of an ongoing series of ukiyo-e art print books, compiled and edited by Jack Hunter. Ukiyo-e is an art style that flourished during the Edo Period, from the 17th to 19th centuries, in Japan. It’s rough translation is “pictures from the floating world“, and most often depicts romanticized versions of samurai, kabuki (male theatre) actors, gorgeous women, and even erotica.
This particular set of collections zeroes in on the violence and horror avenues of ukiyo-e, gathering paintings and prints from the eras most well-known artists. Demons from the Haunted World showcases art by ukiyo-e master, Yoshitoshi, who lived from 1839 to 1892. Yoshitoshi was a prolific painter, and is considered one of the last masters of this art form. He lived through the beginnings of the Meiji era, and in a time where Japan was rapidly adopting Western technology (like photography) he fought to keep old traditions alive. Unfortunately, his struggle was futile, and the art is said to have effectively died with him in 1892.
He became well-known for a set of prints called “The Bloody Prints” (not included in this collection). The series depicted horrible and ultra-violent scenes of mayhem and death (such as this print—warning, graphic content). Later, he would go on to paint many more series. This book focuses purely on his demon and ghost paintings, from several different collections, including “100 Ghosts from China and Japan”, “Heroic Beauty from the Suikoden“, “New Forms of 36 Ghosts”, and a smattering of other collections.
The art itself is gorgeous: terribly detailed, imaginative, and indicative of the period. For those that aren’t familiar with demon renditions in Japan, most do take human form, so I wasn’t overly surprised by the great number of portraits which depict mostly human subjects. However, the actual prints (in this case, the photography used in the book) is quite muddy, and in many cases “bleeds out” the color. These publisher defects, when printed on ultra-glossy paper, detracts from the overall quality of the book, which has nothing more than an introduction and catalog for words. I enjoyed the concept of the layout, with large, full-page, color illustrations, but the quality of the reproductions was poor, often given the images the appearance of a low-quality camera image that had been blown up to grainy quality.
There were also some images in the back that I would have really loved to see much larger, but overall, Demons from the Haunted World showcases an incredible and diverse collection of prints, and I am pleased to have it on my shelf for reference.
Some images I took from the book itself: