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Very little is known about Sharaku, save that he lived in Edo. During his ten-month career, his prints were of such high caliber that modern critics compare him to Rembrandt. He produced around 100 known designs, mostly kabuki actors, marked by an air of satire and persistent wit. Sharaku’s work was radical for its time. His kabuki portraits allow the viewer an exceptionally intimate understanding of the subject’s character. During his lifetime, Sharaku’s style proved controversial. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that his prints were rediscovered and earned him the exceptional reputation he holds today.
Throughout this artistic flowering of the 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.