Sharaku - Not much is known about the woodblock print artist Toshusai Sharaku, who specialized in kabuki portraits. His career spanned only ten months from 1794 to 1795, with around 150 prints known. Unlike his contemporaries, Sharaku did not idealize his subjects, instead creating realistic portrayals that were not always flattering, and his prints were not a popular success at the time. His best works convey a rare perceptivity, with a psychological insight and a deep understanding of the dramatic nature of the roles and the actors he depicted. Sharaku left behind a body of masterworks of ukiyo-e kabuki portraiture that remained unrecognized until a century after his death.
Comments - Quietly moving portrait of the actor Ichikawa Monnosuke II portraying Date-no Yosaku in the play "Koi Nyobo Somewake Tazuna." The young man was disinherited for losing money entrusted to him by his lord, which was stolen while in his care, and for his misconduct with a maid. Reduced to taking care of horses to try to earn enough to pay back the stolen money, his expression is one of patient suffering, lost in his own thoughts. He wears a soft orange outer robe over layers of red and gold patterned kimono, a handsome color scheme set off by the deep gray mica background.
Woodblock reprints - In the 20th century, artists and publishers collaborated to recreate famous woodblock prints for interested Japanese collectors and Westerners looking for rare designs. New blocks were made, and the prints were painstakingly printed by artisan printers in the same method as the 19th century originals - one block for each color. Woodblock reprints were an opportunity to collect and enjoy a famous design at a small fraction of the price of an original. They still are today.
Artist - Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795)
Image Size - 15 1/4" x 9 5/8" + margins as shown
Condition - This print with excellent color and detail as shown. Please see photos for details. Nice overall.