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Sharaku (fl. 1794 - 1795)

Actor Otani Tokuji as the Footman (Yakko) Sodesuke

Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1794
Size (H x W): 14.5 x 9.8 (inches)
Publisher: Tsutaya Juzaburo
Seals: kiwame, hayashi (collectors seal)
Provenance: Hayashi collection
Signature: Toshusai Sharaku Ga
Condition: Very good color, impression and state, embellished with mica background.



Play: Hana Ayame Bunroku Soga

Theater: Miyako

Collection: Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The British Museum, Ritsumeikan University, Tokyo National Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard Art Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art

About the artist

Sharaku was a pivotal ukiyo-e artist of the 18th century. Very little is known about Sharaku’s life, save that he lived in Edo. During his ten-month career, Sharaku's art prints were of such high caliber that modern critics compare his genius to that of Rembrandt. He produced around 140 known designs between May 1794 and February 1795, mostly kabuki actors, each marked by an air of satire and persistent wit, as well as some sumo prints. Sharaku’s work was radical for its time. His portraits of kabuki actors allow the viewer an exceptionally intimate understanding of the subject’s character. Yet, during his lifetime, his style proved controversial. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that Sharaku's prints were rediscovered and earned him the exceptional reputation he holds today.


Throughout this artistic flowering of the Japanese ukiyo-e tradition, artists explored greater realism and began to consider the inner life of the subject, giving way to psychological portraiture. This “Golden Age” of ukiyo-e is marked by a confidence and maturity, composition and refinement, never before mastered.