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Ryuzo Arashi as Yakko Ukiyo Matahei and Hiroji Otani III as Tosa Mathei

Ryuzo Arashi as Yakko Ukiyo Matahei and Hiroji Otani III as Tosa Mathei

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This portrait depicts Ryuzo and Hiroji who appear “Keisei Sanbon Gasa” played by Miyako-za Theater in July of 1794 (Kansei 6). In this kyogen play, Nagoya Sansaburo as a good man and Fuwa Banzaemon as a villain appear. The follower of Nagoya Sansaburo is Hiroji as Tosano Matazo and Fuwa Banzaemon’s is Ukiyo Matahei. Therefore, this picture illustrates the two people with contrast. Sharaku illustrates the actors’ full body view from the bottom of the stage and presents the structural beauty. This picture represents it. Also, he expresses each person as two small triangles and two people as a large triangle. This combination holds balance of structure. Hiroji Otani III was a student of Hiroji II and took over from Oniji Otani in 1763 (Horeki 12). He was written: “Plays without flaw”, “Good wording and has charm”, and “Nice looking, tall, and plays smoothly” in the review. He died in May of 1802 (Kyowa 2) at the age of 57.

 

 

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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