The Life of Takeo Nakasawa


When I speak of Takeo Nakasawa, I cannot help but recall Sharaku Toshusai of the Edo period. He was an artist who specialized in ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints). His artistic career was exceedingly short, only about ten months during the years 1794 to 1795. It appears to be unknown when he was born or when he died. The only certain fact is that he left approximately 150 ukiyo-e, modeled mainly on Kabuki actors. Among them, “Ebizo Ichikawa” is the masterpiece of masterpieces. It is modeled on the Kabuki actor Danjuro Ichikawa V after this name passed to the sixth in the succession. The name Ebizo Ichikawa is used by the fifth after the succession. Just as a good performance of a talented actor or actress inspires the audience, this ukiyoe undoubtedly inspired its contemporaries. It is clear that Sharaku Toshusai opened up a new field of ukiyo-e by drawing the physical features of actors with stark exaggeration and by omitting the subject’s softer aspects in order to more vividly describe the human personality. He is documented in Ukiyo-e Ruiko [Considerations on Currents of Ukiyo-e], which is a book published for the first time in 1800. Appearance in this book led to high acclaim for him, since of the many artists represented, only 37 were ukiyo-e artists. However, it seems that we will never know anything more about the man, but only about his works: It has been said by some that Sharaku Toshusai is the same person as the Noh-actor Jurobei Saito in Awa, Shikoku, but this is now considered to be doubtful at best.


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