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Oniji Otani II as Yakko Edobei

Oniji Otani II as Yakko Edobei

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This picture is the most famous portrait done by Sharaku. This depicts a follower of Washizuka Hachibei, a villain. This illustrates a bad man: facial expression of Oniji Otani as an antagonist and his posture represent the role. The mouth is tightly closes like a straight line, two grim eyes framed with crimson squarely, and two opened hands appeal to us. There are not so many pictures illustrating villains with this kind of tension. Illustrating the face sticking out into the screen largely; this make us impressed much. The both hand are illustrated in somehow a strange way, but it should be like this way; therefore, this makes this picture impressive. Another element that makes this portrait excellent is colors. This character is a hateful villain, but it is not the most important role; therefore, the kimono costume looks gaily but cheap: this is the traditional expression in kabuki. The colors represent its role. Yellow stripes in Indian red is gaily, and crimson of underwear and inner color of the kimono is dark green are also gaily. This gaily makes us feel the strange facial expression more hateful. This work is the best to know the art of Sharaku directly.

 

 

Sharaku Toshusai(birth and death dates unknown)

Birth and death dates unknown.

In 1794 (Kansei 6), Sharaku came into sudden prominence, produced more than 140 ukiyo-e paintings during the mere ten months of his activity as an ukiyo-e painter, and then disappeared forever. For his debut work, he used the large, o-ban printing size, and expensive biotitic background printing, which was unusual. Juzaburo Tsutaya, a publisher, enthusiastically promoted Sharaku after Utamaro had left him. Meanwhile, the printing size was getting smaller. One of the major reasons for this was that Sharaku’s way of drawing actors as they were, regardless of their popularity, was not accepted by people of the era. However, each of his portraits is full of energetic impression and gives a positive impact. Because of this, he also received high acclaim from abroad.

 

Selections of Sharaku Toshusai

Sharaku Toshusai(birth and death dates unknown)

One of the reasons why Sharaku’s works are precious is that so few exist. Unfortunately, his art was recognized abroad before it gained popularity in Japan. While the Japanese were blind to his talent, many of the works ended up abroad and were praised. Some of the works were brought back to Japan as part of the Matsukata Collection in 1943 (Showa 18), which increased the number of his popular works in Japan. These forty works were reissued from the collection. Each of them represents one of Sharaku’s great masterpieces.

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