by Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795)
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 - Classic Sharaku image of the kabuki actor Sanokawa Ichimatsu III as the beauty O-Nayo of Gion Street in a scene from "Hana Ayame Bunroku Soga." She holds a fan with delicate fingers as she looks ahead, her eyebrows raised and lips tightly closed. Her soft plum outer kimono is trimmed with a checkered design so favored by the actor that it became known as "Ichimatsu pattern," creating a popular fashion at the time. Her hair is piled high with a large comb and many hairpins, and a small purple head-cloth. An intriguing portrait with a distressed 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" x 10" + margin as shown
Condition - This print with excellent detail as shown. Small tear at edge, repaired. Slight toning, a few creases. Please see photos for details. Good overall.