Natori Shunsen 1886 – 1960

Natori Shunsen, one of the finest designers of actor prints, was born Natori Yoshinosuke, the fifth son of a silk merchant. The family moved to Tokyo after Shunsen’s father lost his business. In Tokyo, Shunsen had the opportunity to begin his artistic training.
He developed an interest in kabuki actor portraits while working as an illustrator for the newspaper Asahi Shimbun. During this time, he had the opportunity to meet the publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō, who was the primary force behind the shin-hanga movement.
In 1925, Natori and Watanabe worked together on a series of 36 actor portraits. This series contains some of Natori’s finest kabuki designs. Watanabe lavishly produced each print in a limited edition of 150 and sold them only by subscription. The series lasted through 1929, followed by a supplemental series of 15 actor prints produced through 1931.
Natori’s actor portraits were mainly in the ōkubi-e (large head) format which allowed him to focus on the expression and emotions of the character’s face.
Natori Shunsen continued to work as an artist in the kabuki theater, but did not design any other actor prints until the early 1950s. From 1951 to 1954, he again collaborated with Watanabe on another series of 30 actor prints. Like the earlier series, these designs were beautifully printed and are very expressive, especially the ōkubi-e portrait.
His twenty-two year old daughter died of pneumonia in 1958. He and his wife committed suicide by poison at their daughter’s grave two years later.

HUAM-CARP07538

Ichimura Uzaemon XV as Iriya Naozamurai

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Year: 1925
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

SC205701

Ichikawa Ennosuke II as Kakudayû

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Play: Tôyama-zakura Tenpô Nikki
Year: 1927
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

a6b43326c7239ca3558c5fbbeeefdb2d

Ichikawa Chusha VII as Taju no Takechi Mitsuhide

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Year: 1926
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

198k250f

Ichikawa Sadanji II as Marubashi Chuya

Series: Supplement of Fifteen Actor Portraits in Various Roles
Year: 1931
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

sc205703

Jitsukawa Enjaku II as Danshichi

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Play: Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami
Year: 1931
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

shunsen2

Soganoya Goro and Choroku

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Play: Hizakurige
Year: 1928
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

279k297f
Sawamura Gennosuke IV as Nikki Danjo

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Year: 1928
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

Terrific kabuki portrait of Sawamura Gennosuke IV as Nikki Danjo, an evil magician who transformed himself into a rat to steal an important scroll. He is shown here as he returns to human form, with the scroll in his mouth and his hands clasped together in a magical gesture. The red wound on his head occurred while he was in rat form, when the loyal retainer Otokonosuke struck him on the head with a fan. He wears a gray robe with a white pattern across the chest, the dark color resembling that of a rat, and his hair is combed back into sleek wings with the longer locks pulled into a topknot. A blue shadow appears along his unshaven chin, and the area around his eyes is shaded with a peachy tone. The background features swirling baren marks, adding a delicate texture. Beautifully printed and detailed with embossing on the end of the scroll and fine bokashi shading. A great subject from Shunsen’s “Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles,” a series lavishly published by Watanabe.

 

223k305f
Ichikawa Udanji as Sukune Taro

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Play: Sugawara denju tenerai kagami
Year: 1928
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

shunsen4

Bando Shucho III as Shizuka Gozen

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Play: Yoshitsune senbon zakura
Year: 1925
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

123456

Onoe Eizaburo as Okaru

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Play: Kanadehon Chushingura
Year: 1926
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

12345

Nakamura Jakuemon III as Oshichi

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Play:
Year: 1927
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

1234

Ichikawa Shocho II as Umegawa and Kataoka Gado IV as Chubei

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles
Play:
Year: 1927
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

123

Onoe Kikugoro VI as Omatsuri Sashichi

Series: Thirty-six Portraits of Actors in Various Roles (15 supplementing prints)
Play:
Year: 1931
Publisher: Watanabe Shôzaburô
Size: Oban 25,4 x 38cm

 

shunsen6

The Actor Ichikawa Uzaemon XV in the role of Shirai Gonpachi in the play Komurasaki hiykuzuka no hanashi

羽左衛門の白井権八 Uzaemon no Shirai Gonpachi
Year: 1915
Size: Koban 7 1/4 x 4 3/4 in. (18.4 x 12.1 cm)
One of 30 prints (including 2 cover prints and 1 frontispiece) designed by Natori Shunsen that appeared in the magazine Shin Nigao, whose purpose was to advertise the Kabuki theater and renew interest in actor prints. Pictured is Ichikawa Uzaemon XV portraying Shirai Gonpachi. The entry in the table of contents of issue #5 of Shin Nigao, in which this print appears, identifies the performance as “hiyokuzuka” (the double grave of lovers who died together) playing at the Kabuki-za.
The basic storyline involves Gonpachi falling in love with the courtesan Komurasaki andtheir eventual double suicide.
An image of this collection’s print was provided to the National Gallery of Australia and appears in the catalog to their 2012-2013 exhibition Stars of the Tokyo Stage.

Advertisements