Tōshūsai Sharaku was a Japanese ukiyo-e print designer, known for his portraits of kabuki actors. Neither his true name nor the dates of his birth or death are known. His active career as a woodblock artist spanned ten months; his prolific work met disapproval and his output came to an end as suddenly and mysteriously as it had begun. His work has come to be considered some of the greatest in the ukiyo-e genre.
Sharaku made mostly yakusha-e portraits of kabuki actors. His compositions emphasize poses of dynamism and energy, and display a realism unusual for prints of the time—contemporaries such as Utamaro represented their subjects with an idealized beauty, while Sharaku did not shy from showing unflattering details. This was not to the tastes of the public, and the enigmatic artist's production ceased in the first month of 1795. His mastery of the medium with no apparent apprenticeship has drawn much speculation, and researchers have long tried to discover his true identity—amongst the dozens of proposals, some suggest he was an obscure poet, others a Noh actor, or even the ukiyo-e master Hokusai.