Kabuki: Theatrical Portraits from 18th Century Japan

Kabuki: Theatrical Portraits from 18th Century Japan  displays thirty color prints depicting the leading actors performing in Edo (present-day Tokyo) during the 1770s and '80s. The exhibit features the work of artists such as Shunsho, Shigemasa, Buncho, and Kiyomitsu, among others.

The Ukiyo-e  school was the name given to the Japanese painters and woodblock print artists from the 17th through the 19th centuries. The schoolreflected contemporary Japanese life and customs, and many 18th century artists found inspiration in the theatre. The popularity of the Kabuki theatre had been phenominal, and between 1771 and 1789, the center of the Kabuki world gravitated to Edo. During this period, many technical advances were made, including the revolving stage and the trap door.

Playwrights often wrote plays with particular actors in mind for the leading roles. The cult which developed around the actors and the publicity needs of the theatres created a great demand for pictoral art, and artists responded to that demand with prints of favorite actors and scenes.