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.
Takamizawa's Taisho era Reprints - With the increase in Western visitors to Japan in the first quarter of the 20th century and the interest in the Edo era woodblock print tradition, some of the best publishing houses began to release high quality reprints of the most famous ukiyo-e designs. Founded in 1911, the Takamizawa Publisher of Tokyo produced some of the highest quality ukiyo-e woodblock reprints of all time. Drawing on the traditions and methods of the Edo era, the company created reprints with the utmost care and great attention to detail, masterfully reproducing color, line work, and even wood grain detail in some cases.
This print was published during the Taisho era (1911 - 1925), and features a Takamizawa seal on the reverse. Takamizawa's Taisho era prints are considered to be some of the finest reprints ever done. Today, these lovely old prints are sought after by collectors. This is a fantastic early release by Takamizawa and a great choice for a collector interested in classic ukiyo-e images.
Comments - Handsome Sharaku double portrait of the actors Ichikawa Komazo II as Chubei and Nakayama Tomisaburo in the role of the beauty Umegawa in the play "Yomo-no Nishiki Kokyo-no Tabiji." Chubei is a farmer's son who works for a courier firm, who falls in love with the beautiful courtesan Umegawa. Unable to raise the money to redeem her from service, the lovers eventually decide to commit suicide together rather than be parted. In this scene they prepare to leave together, Umegawa kneels with a slender twist of paper to repair a broken sandal strap held delicately between her slender fingers. A pair of sandals and a stack of folded tissues lie on the floor before her. Chubei stands next to her, scowling as he looks over his shoulder, arms firmly folded across his chest. The sword at his side is covered for traveling, and he wears a long brown coat with a black lacquer pattern over his plaid kimono. Wonderful detail in the fabric patterns and expressive faces, with a fine distressed mica background.
Artist - Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795)
Image Size - 15 1/4" x 10"
Condition - This print with excellent detail as shown. Light toning, a few creases. Please see photos for details.