Ukiyo-e Ruiko (Various Thoughts on Ukiyo-e) (浮世絵類考)
The Ukiyo-e Ruiko is basic material of the art history, collected biographies and backgrounds of ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) artists. The original text was written by Nanbo OTA in the Kansei era (during 1789-1801), and many researchers added their comments and modifications before the completion of this book.
Nanbo OTA wrote about 31 ukiyo-e artists in the Kansei era. Shinshichi (also known as Kuninori) SASAYA added lineages, and Kyoden SANTO added his thoughts to it. Moreover, as its written copies spread, some other experts such as Sanba SHIKITEI added some more modifications. In 1844, Gesshin SAITO made further additions and renamed this work "Zoho Ukiyo-e Ruiko" (Enlarged History of Ukiyoe Prints), which contained the stories about 86 ukiyo-e artists. Gesshin wanted to publish it, but he couldn't. Afterward, Shukin TATSUTANOYA compiled the "Shin Zoho Ukiyo-e Ruiko" (Newly Enlarged History of Ukiyoe Prints), which contained the stories about 127 ukiyo-e artists, in 1868.
Printed books of the Ukiyo-e Ruiko were published from Onchi-sosho Library (in 1891) and the Iwanami Library (in 1941).
Although this document has such a complicated compilation process that some articles in written copies are somewhat incorrect, this is still the only trustworthy collection of ukiyo-e artist biographies, and this book is regarded as a jumping-off point of ukiyo-e research.
Description of Sharaku (an obscure ukiyo-e artist who lived during the Edo period)
The following texts are quoted from the section of Sharaku TOSHUSAI of the Iwanami Library edition (revised by Katsunosuke NAKADA).
Sharakusai: (E) Sharaku TOSHUSAI
(Shin) Generally referred to as Jurobe SAITO (Awa), living in Hatchobori. He was a Noh actor from the Awa Province.
He painted pictures of faces of Kabuki [traditional drama performed by male actors] actors, but his pictures were too real because he was really keen to draw true likenesses of them, so his popularity did not last long and he eventually disappeared after a few years.
(E) However, his pictures still deserve to be praised because of his elegant touch.
(S) I believe Toshusai SHARAKU lived in Hatchobori, Edo, and he had been active only for a half year.
The part that 'He painted … within a few year' is close to the original text written by Nanbo OTA. The above (E), (Shin), and (S) indicate texts added by Eibian KATO, descriptions from the "Shin Zoho Ukiyo-e Ruiko" (based on the additional comment by Gasshin SAITO), texts added by Sanba SHIKITEI respectively. In addition to the above, different comments were added to some other written copies.