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Shunsho (1726 - 1792)

Kabuki Actor Ichikawa Danjuro V as Taruhiroi Goro

Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: c. 1775
Size (H x W): 12.25 x 5.5 (inches)
Provenance: Michener
Signature: Shunsho ga
Condition: Very good color and impression, very light surface soiling, very small, light crease from top left corner, small tape on upper corners reverse.

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Other impressions of this design can be found in institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the British Museum.

According to the British Museum, this print illustrates the play "Kikujido Shuen no Iwaya" performed at the Morita theater on the 1st day of the 11th month of 1775.

About the artist

Shunsho Katsukawa was one of the great masters of ukiyo-e. As founder of the Katsukawa School, he was a pivotal print artist, accomplished painter, and influential teacher. Born in 1726, little is known about Shunsho’s personal life. He came to Edo to study haiku, poetry, and painting under Shunsui Miyagawa. It is thought that Shunsho began to design actor prints (yakusha-e) around 1768. In these prints, he turned away from the idealized figures of the Torii School in favor of recognizable subjects. From subtle facial features to characteristic expressions, Shunsho brought theatrical stars to life through realistic portraiture. As he focused on the individual actor rather than the role portrayed, Shunsho marked a distinct shift in the actor print genre. From his hosoban actor portraits to his illustrated books, Shunsho introduced individualism to yakusha-e. This legacy flourished under talented students such as Shuncho, Shunko, Shunei, and Shunro (aka Hokusai).

Shunsho Katsukawa’s woodblock print success reached beyond yakusha-e. He explored other ukiyo-e genres, producing many shunga albums, illustrated books, warrior prints, and images of sumo wrestlers throughout his career. He was also highly successful in the field of bijin-ga, or “pictures of beautiful women,” and devoted his later years to painting for elite patrons. Shunsho Katsukawa’s early prints are not signed. Instead, they are sealed with the character “hayashi” enclosed within the shape of a bronze jar (tsubo). This seal belonged to Shichiemon Hayashiya, the publisher with whom Shunsho lived with for a time.