Technique: acrylic on canvas
Size: 120 x 177 cm (47.24 x 69.68 inch)
Year: May 2011
More info about the 100 Views of Ukiyo-e series of paintings available at my website.
Sharaku is the most mysterious Ukiyo-e artist. His true identity is still unknown and his magnum opuseswere produced in a less of a year. His greatness in realistic depiction of actors’ emotional state within a role was considered rude at that time, therefore rejected by a community. Ironically, his name became almost a synonym to kabuki and his portraits influence many, his and nowadays’ contemporary artists.
Strange how kabuki, a sing and dance show, performed by women only, within 75 years became performed only by men. It´s Japanese Theater that came from, or was influenced by kyogen, a short play with humorous twist that was played between two Noh plays. From the begging it was connected to prostitution and it was under the constant surveillance of shogunate rule. It was soon forbidden for women to act and women’s roles were taken by young men. Nothing changed. Then, it was forbidden for young men to act and it became adult male theater. Nothing changed. Onnagata, actors who were playing women characters, were equally successful prostitutes as male character actors. Homosexuality was not a tabu at that time. Here we see actors Sawamura Sojuro III as Nagoya Sanza and Segawa Kikunogo III as the courtesan Katsuragi in the kabuki play Keisei Sanbon Karakasa, an old play that is still performed nowadays. Red patch on Kikunogo´s forehead is covering his shaved pate, because wigs were banned at the time.
In my opinion, onnagata actors within kabuki and Yoshivara represent the first transvestite community, because an actor who would take female role would continue to wear women’s clothing and act as a woman outside of the kabuki theater.