Artist highlight: Toushuusai Sharaku

October 19, 2020 3 min read

Artist highlight: Toushuusai Sharaku

Toushuusai Sharaku’s a mysterious Edo artist who has released around 145 ukiyoe within a short span of 10 months before disappearing from the art scene. It was speculated that his short activity period was a result of the lack of appreciation from the public, as he has drawn the characteristics of kabuki actors as it is, regardless of whether it looks aesthetically pleasant or not. His works are commonly known as “Ookubie”, which literally mean big-neck art, and it clearly does not sound too flattering. However the vivid expressions of the actors have become popular in modern times as it stood out among other generic artworks. Toushuusai Sharaku’s creative artwork has gained so popularity overseas as well. In the early 20th century, German scholar Kurt Julius cited him as one of the best three portrait artists, ranking him side by side with the likes of Rembrandt and Rubens. It was truly unfortunate that Toushuusai Sharaku’s works only garnered attention later, and not much of his personal life was known, but it’s still not too late to appreciate his talent and creativity now. Here are three of his famous works.

ŌTANI ONIJI III AS YAKKO EDOBEI (1794)

Ōtani oniji iii as yakko edobei (1794)

Ōtani oniji iii as yakko edobei (1794)

Buy this print >>>

In this work, we see the actor of Koi Nyoubou Somewake Tazuna, who has a unique proportion where his head was almost too big for his body and small hands. His expression was all too stern with furrowed eyebrows and lips with downturn ends. The brown shadows around his eyes matches well with his outfit, giving a harmonized feeling to the overall work piece. Other than his serious but comedic facial expression, his hands were stuck out in a cute manner which truly gave this work a magical charm. One should not miss out the palm lines that were carefully depicted by Toushuusai Sharaku.

IWAI HANSHIRO IV AS THE WET NURSE SHIGENOI (1794)

Iwai hanshiro iv as the wet nurse shigenoi (1794)

Iwai hanshiro iv as the wet nurse shigenoi (1794)

Buy this print >>>

Here we see an actor of Koi Nyoubou Somewake Tazuna, a forbidden love story between a wet nurse and samurai, who does not fit into the beauty standards with small beady eyes. However, his professional feminine posture makes him a convincing lady. In particular, his lips were pursed as though he has seen something intriguing. His hair was also set up in a neat position and we can see the fine details around his temples. The pink and purple color of the kimono gives off a vibrant feel to the overall work piece.

SAKATA HANGORŌ III AS THE VILLIAN FUJIKAWA MIZUEMON (1794)

Sakata hangorō iii as the villian fujikawa mizuemon (1794)

Sakata hangorō iii as the villian fujikawa mizuemon (1794)

Buy This Print >>>

In this work, we see the villain of Hanaayame Bunroku Soga, based on the true story of Kameyama no Adauchi, with an evil expression. Fujikawa Mizuemon’s a murderer who stole a treasured scroll. The ends of lips were sloping down so dramatically. The ends of his tied up hair were intricately created. His outfit gives a unique three-dimensional geometrical feature from the direction of the stripes. We see him reaching up his sleeves, and he’s probably up to no good. The overall color of this work’s on the neutral side, but the expression of the actor shines through it all.

View Toushuusai Sharaku Prints full catalog >>>

This amazing article written by Yeong!


Join Our Newsletter Club