The earliest known ukiyo-e genre, 'yakusha-e', commonly referred to in English as "actor prints", was the most popular and commercially important genre of ukiyo-e. The prints revolved around the theatre art of 'kabuki', and the leading lights that performed in them.

With complex plots, stylized acting and spectacular production design, kabuki was an expressive form of storytelling. Originating as a form of dance performed by women on the streets of Edo, kabuki adapted and changed over 300 years in the rapidly-changing environment of Japan. But it remained an art for the people, by the people.

It's an incredibly performer-centric art form, as each story was adapted and made their own by the actor playing the role. They formed new styles and poses, set fashion trends and some even became their roles off-stage. Yakusha-e was a direct result of this; capturing the elaborate costumes, dramatic make-up and unique characterisation of these Edo period movie stars.

In this collection we're proud to present exquisite prints by Kunisada, Sharaku and Kunichika, three of the most important ukiyo-e artists specialising in actor prints. Each of these striking actor portraits and triptychs are available as a fine poster print, canvas wrap, or framed ready-to-hang pieces.

Join Our Newsletter Club