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Tōshūsai Sharaku

Iwai Hanshirō IV as Shigenoi


Tōshūsai Sharaku
Japan, active 1794-1795


Iwai Hanshirō IV as Shigenoi






33.7 x 23.5 cm


F. Cleveland Morgan Bequest, inv. Gr.1986(1962.Ee.95).63


Graphic Arts

Sharaku was one of the most original and enigmatic artists of the Ukiyo-e movement, known for his bold portraits of the actors of the Kabuki theatre. Less than two hundred prints are attributed to his genius as he was active for less than a year (between 1794 and 1795). His unflattering realism and grotesque taste well captured the essential qualities of the actors he portrayed, as he strove for psychological realism by exaggerating their facial expressions. All characters, male and female, in the Kabuki were played by men. In this print, the then famous actor Iwai Hanshirō IV is portrayed as the wet nurse Shigenoi. Not so much a beautiful woman according to current canons, but without any doubt, an intense personification of one.
His talent was recognised only many years later when he started being appreciated in the west, as his work had a major impact on French nineteenth century artists including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

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