Japanese woodblock print,1950, published by Watanabe,10.75 x 16 inches (overall).
NATORI SHUNSEN was born in Kushigata-cho, Yamanashi, but moved to Tokyo after the bankruptcy of his father's business in 1887, and started to study nihonga under Kubota Beisen and Hirafuku Hyakusui, and oil painting under Fukui Kotei. From 1907 until 1913 he worked for the Asahi Shimbun newspaper illustrating the serial novel Heibon by Futabatei Shimei and later Natsume Soseki's novel Sanshiro.
Shunsen developed an interest in kabuki actor portraits while working for Asahi Shimbun. Around 1925 he met the publisher Shozaburo Watanabe and the two collaborated on a series of 36 portraits of the leading kabuki actors of the day. This series contained some of Shunsen's finest work, which Watanabe lavishly produced in limited editions and sold by subscription. The production of the series lasted through 1929 and was followed by a supplementary series of another 15 prints through 1931. He created no other prints of actors until 1951 when he and Watanabe collaborated again on a series of 30 more actor prints through 1954. Shunsen is considered to be the last master of the art of kabuki yakusha-e ("actor pictures").