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 - Fantastic Sharaku portrait of the actor Ichikawa Yaozo III in the role of Tanabe Bunzo. Having fallen on hard times, the samurai is impoverished and crippled, and he stares ahead with unseeing eyes and a look of desperation. His shoulders are slumped, his arms tightly folded across his chest, the top of his head unshaven and bristling with short hair. Sharaku beautifully captures the loneliness and despair of the young man, who will soon meet his death at the hands of a murderer. A wonderful composition with a shimmering mica background. A handsome and moving character from the kabuki play "Hana Ayame Bunroku Soga."
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 - 14 5/8" x 9 3/4" + margins as shown
Condition - This print with excellent color and detail as shown. Slight paper remnants on reverse at top edge from previous mounting. A few spots and small marks. Please see photos for details.