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 - Fantastic portrait of Ichikawa Ebizo (formerly Ichikawa Danjuro V) as Takemura Sadanoshin in the kabuki play "Koi Nyobo Somewake Tazuna." Sadanoshin was engaged by a nobleman as a Noh drama instructor, but he was dismissed over the misconduct of his daughter Shigenoi, who served as a lady's maid and wet-nurse. He takes the dishonor to his family so seriously that while giving his master final instruction in the famous Noh play "Dojoji," he commits suicide while hiding under the temple bell. He looks forward with a slightly anxious expression, his eyes wide and eyebrows raised, the open corner of his upraised lips showing the inside of his mouth. He clasps his hands nervously before him, as if about to make a great pronouncement. The warms colors of his robe and kamishimo contrast nicely with the distressed mica ground. A real Sharaku masterwork.
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 10" + margins as shown
Condition - This print with excellent color and detail as shown. Please see photos for details.