Sharaku (fl.1794 - 1795 )

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. 

Japanese Woodblock Prints (1600 - 1800)

Early ukiyo-e, or pictures (e) of the floating world (ukiyo), emerged around 1660 with monochrome prints. The masters of this “primitive” period, such as Moronobu and Masanobu, are known for their elegant and vital lines. By 1700, the first early color prints emerged. Hand-colored with vegetable-based pigments, this process proved costly and was replaced by full-color printing in 1765. Known as the father of color printing, Harunobu ushered in the era of nishiki-e, or brocade pictures, with sensitivity and subtlety. The late 18th century welcomed a “golden age” of ukiyo-e, during which time artists developed the use of color and diversified their approach to subject matter. Sharaku imbued his actor portraits with a greater sense of individualism, while Utamaro delved deeper into the “greenhouses” of the Yoshiwara, considering the private lives of courtesans. Browse our collection of early ukiyo-e below.


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  • Buncho
  • Eiri
  • Eishi
  • Eisho
  • Harunobu
  • Hokusai
  • Kiyomitsu
  • Kiyonaga
  • Kiyotsune
  • Koryusai
  • Masanobu
  • Masayoshi
  • Morikuni
  • Moronobu
  • Sharaku
  • Shigemasa
  • Shuncho
  • Shundo
  • Shunei
  • Shunjo
  • Shunko
  • Shunman
  • Shunsho
  • Sukenobu
  • Toyokuni I
  • Utamaro
  • Unsigned / Unknown Artist


  • Actors & Theater


  • 1600 - 1800 (Early Edo)


  • Woodblock Print


  • Medium (ie. Oban)

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Filtered By: Sharaku
Actor Osagawa Tsuneyo II as Ippei's Older Sister Osan


Actor Osagawa Tsuneyo II as Ippei's Older Sister Osan



Actor Otani Tokuji as the Footman (Yakko) Sodesuke


Actor Otani Tokuji as the Footman (Yakko) Sodesuke