Buncho (fl. 1765 - 1792)

Ichikawa Danjuro

Series: Ehon Butai Ogi: Picture Book of the Stage in Fan Shapes
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1770
Size (H x W): 9.5 x 6 (inches)
Publisher: Kariganeya Ihei
Seals: Buncho
Condition: Very good color and impression, very light soiling and wear, tiny worm hole.

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Published in 1770 by Kariganeya Ihei, Picture Book of Stage Fans (Ehon Butai Ogi) presents the brightest kabuki stars of the day. Spanning three volumes, each page features a half-length portrait of an actor framed within the outline of a fan. As a collaborative project from the brushes of Katsukawa Shunsho (1726-1792) and Ippitsusai Buncho (fl.1765-1792), this illustrated book marks an early exploration of nigao-e, or “likeness pictures.” In each portrait, the artist identifies the actor with his stage name and family crest, yet also through distinctive aspects of his physical appearance and expression. This interest in the recognizable individual drove the success of the Katsukawa School in the second half of 18th century and laid the groundwork for the increasing realism of ukiyo-e at the turn of the century.

About the artist

Buncho Ippitsusai was an early ukiyo-e woodblock print artist and painter known for his yakusha-e or "actor prints." Little is known about the artist's early life, though scholars suggest that he studied Kano school painting under Yukimoto Ishikawa. Along with the artist Shunsho Katsukawa, Buncho is credited with directing the yakusha-e genre away from stock faces to more realistic depictions of the actors portrayed. In 1770, Buncho collaborated with Shunsho to complete Picture Book of Stage Fans, a three volume illustrated book set presenting stage celebrities of the day. This collection of actor portraiture is a pivotal book in the history of ukiyo-e. Buncho also produced bijin-ga, or "pictures of beautiful women." While influenced by Harunobu’s ethereal beauties, Buncho struck a balance of idealism and realism in his beauties. He produced many works in the narrow hosoban print format.