It was only ten months between 1794 and 1795 that Toshusai Sharaku worked as an ukiyo-e painter. But in the meantime, he has left over 140 kabuki actor portraits.
Mysterious ukiyo-e artist
Although many people made various theories who Sharaku was, no one can’t find any definitive proof. Only limited people, such as the publisher Tsutaya Juzaburo (蔦屋重三郎) who also published the pictures of Kitagawa Utamaro and Katsushika Hokusai knew the identity.
Except for some of the sumo wrestlers, most of his paintings were Yakusha-e(pictures depicting popular kabuki actors).
Especially the painting using the same method as Utamaro’s beautiful women portrait ookubi-e(大首絵) had the power to overwhelm the others. Toshusai Sharaku drew the upper half of the actor’s body. Addition to that, he boldly deformed and depicted the expression of kabuki actor on the stage.
However, the methods were not accepted by people in Edo. After all, he became to draw the whole body of kabuki actor at the end of his production period.
Such pictures could not hold out against the pictures of people who were advanced including Utagawa Toyokuni and Katsukawa Shun^ei. Tsutaya Juzaburo had never published a picture with Toshusai Sharaku’s signature and seal since February 1795.
Gallery of Sharaku’s ukiyo-e artworks
Book list of Toshusai Sharaku’s artworks