Buncho and Shunsho: The Stage as Fans

Buncho and Shunsho: The Stage as Fans View Works

One of the oldest classical forms of dance-drama, kabuki is an exciting and interactive theater that dates back over 400 years. The strong, animated actors of kabuki were idolized by the public and proved to be invigorating subjects for ukiyo-e artists. Two of the greatest artists in actor portraiture were Ippitsusai Buncho (fl.1765-1792) and Katsukawa Shunsho (1726-1792) and together they designed the most dynamic series of kabuki portraits of the mid-18th century, Ehon Butai Ogi or Picture Book of Stage Fans. This internationally celebrated color-illustrated book was designed and printed in 1770. Each page features a half-length portrait of an actor framed by a fan shape. Both artists were brilliant in representing the individual character of each actor by using subtle variations in their facial features. These inspired Japanese fan prints are perfect expressions of their creativity and present a vivid depiction of the kabuki theater.

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