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 - Terrific double portrait of Segawa Tomisaburo II as Yadorigi, the wife of Ogishi Kurando, and her maidservant Wakakusa, played by Nakamura Manyo, in a scene from "Hana Ayame Bunroku Soga." Yadorigi wears a tan robe over a soft rose kimono patterned with delicate leaves, her hand held gracefully before her chest. The corners of her lips curve up slightly as she looks over her shoulder, her maid crouching subserviently beside her. The two form an interesting pair, with the tall, elegant Yadorigi in contrast to the full-faced Wakakusa. Lovely muted color and a distressed mica background in this handsome design.
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 3/8"
Condition - This print with excellent detail as shown. Slight toning, a few creases. Please see photos for details. Good overall.