had a short stint with painting woodblock prints, although
his claim to fame was large bust portraits of actors, which
are very difficult to find today.
While painting, Sharaku left an impression on Asian
art. His full name of Toshusai Sharaku is considered among many
great masters. In
addition to his own work, he was an innovator and as some
say, a “creative genius”.
Much of Sharaku’s work was done in the Ukiyo-e
world but he was also considered a world art master.
The truth is that finding information about Sharaku
is difficult. What
we know is that he did woodblock prints, as mentioned, but
information pertaining to his birth, death, and ancestry is
simply unknown. The
fascinating thing about this particular artist is that it is
reported he only painted woodblock prints from 1794 to 1795.
Even more interesting is that while you would
typically be able to follow a specific artist from schooling
to mastery, it seems as if Sharaku came out of nowhere.
In fact, he appeared on the Asian art scene, already
at a high level of skill.
Then to make matters even more confusing is the fact
that he disappeared as quickly as he appeared.
Now, we have learned that it seems Sharaku was
actually a Noh actor, going by the name of Saito Jurobei.
Further research indicates he was a member of the
Hachisuka family. Although
his disappearance is a highly controversial subject, some
historians believe that because he was a member of the Noh
acting group but was painting Kabuki actors, his own master
was displeased, asking him to leave. Even so, during his short time of painting woodblock prints,
he captured a number of Kabuki actors to include Sawamura
Yodogoro and Bando Zenji, both in 1794.
However, another theory has risen in the past few
case, it is believed that Sharaku was a project, not a
particular project consisted of several artists asked to
help launch a woodblock print house.
In this case, the name Sharaku would be a derivative
of “Sharakusai”, which actually translates to
is thought that the entire project name was a joke only
appreciated by in-house actors.
Because there was dramatic change in style during
this short period, this second theory appears to be far more
While the last scenario seems likely, a third theory
has surfaced. For
this, it is said that Sharaku along with his Ukiyo-e master,
Hokusai, since he too disappeared suddenly from 1792 to
1796, which would be around the same time that Sharaku
this third theory of the life of Sharaku and his amazing
skill is supported by little.
Although mystery surrounds Sharaku, a number of
interesting facts is know.
For instance, paintings done by Sharaku are extremely
detailed, depicting personal and sometimes, unknown
characteristics about the subject.
As you can imagine, this insight made some people
feel uncomfortable, as if he had some special inside.
Because of this, Sharaku prints were hard to sell.
Additionally, Sharaku did not budge on his work.
He was very proud of what he produced, even when
criticized by the art world.
Today, Sharaku’s work is in demand, with him being
labeled as one of the most incredible woodblock print
artists of all times.