Tōshūsai Sharaku ( active 1794 - 1795) is widely considered to be one of the great masters of the woodblock printing in Japan. Little is known of him, besides his ukiyo-e prints; neither his true name nor the dates of his birth or death are known with any certainty. His active career as a woodblock artist seems to have spanned just ten months in the mid-Edo period of Japanese history, from the middle of 1794 to early 1795.
His career appears to have been so brief in part because the radical nature of his work aroused the hostility of the art world in Edo. One contemporary manuscript records:
"Sharaku designed likenesses of Kabuki actors, but because he depicted them too truthfully, his prints did not conform to accepted ideas, and his career was short."
Indeed, his work did not become popular among collectors in Japan until rediscovered by German scholar Julius Kurth in 1910. He is now considered one of the greatest of all woodblock artists, and the first 'modern' artist of Japan, and the extraordinarily rare extant originals of his prints command fantastic sums at auctions.
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