Sharaku Toshusai

Sharaku Toshusai

(shä`räko͞o tōsho͝osī`), fl. 1794, Japanese artist. Extant sources indicate that he was either Saito Jurobei, a Noh dancer in the employ of the Daimyo of Awa, or that his name was Toshusai and he lived in Hatchobori. There are 136 extant prints of his satirical and often cutting images of actors and performers; all were made between May, 1794, and Feb., 1795. His drawing is individual and vigorous, but often striking in its exaggeration. After his death his popularity increased in Europe; this led to a recognition of his talent in Japan.


See biography by I. Kondo (1955); study by J. Suzuki (1968); H. Henderson and L. Ledoux, Sharaku: Japanese Theatre Prints (1984).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sharaku Toshusai


Years of birth and death unknown. Japanese painter, graphic artist, and no actor who worked in the last third of the 18th century.

Sharaku is most famous for his series of portraits of Kabuki actors (drawings for woodblock color prints, 1794–95). The force-fulness of these works, which border on the grotesque, sharply distinguishes them from other Japanese 18th-century works of art that use themes from the theater. Sharaku’s portraits have stylized angular outlines on dark blue or black backgrounds.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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This same period witnessed the sudden ascendance of Sharaku Toshusai, one of the most gifted and enigmatic figures in Japanese art.