Over 140 prints have been established as the work of Sharaku; the majority are portraits of actors or scenes from kabuki theatre, and most of the rest are of sumo wrestlers or warriors.
Sharaku’s reputation rests largely on the earlier prints; those from the eleventh month of 1794 and after are considered artistically inferior.
Energy and dynamism are the primary features of Sharaku’s portraits, rather than the idealized beauty typical of ukiyo-e—Sharaku highlights unflattering features such as large noses or the wrinkles of aging actors.
Most ukiyo-e artists gained apprenticeship experience and connections by working for an artistic school, such as the Torii or Utagawa school.
Ukiyo-e artists had low social status, and what personal details remain in the record tend to be sparse; Sharaku nevertheless presents an exceptional case in the utter absence of these details.
The Edo public reacted poorly to Sharaku’s portraits. More copies of the larger, first-period works remain, suggesting they enjoyed greater popularity than the later works; most for which only a single copy remains come from the later periods.