The accompanying title to the British Museum exhibition Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese art, available at the special Museum price of £40.00 (RRP £50.00).
In early modern Japan, thousands of sexually explicit paintings, prints, and illustrated books with texts were produced. These were euphemistically called ‘spring pictures’ (shunga).
Frequently tender, funny and beautiful, shunga were mostly done within the popular art school known as ‘pictures of the floating world’ (ukiyo-e), by celebrated artists such as Utamaro and Hokusai.
Shunga is in some ways a unique phenomenon in pre-modern world culture, in terms of the quantity, the quality and the nature of the art that was produced.
About this title
This hardback catalogue, published to accompany a major international exhibition, aims to answer some key questions about what is shunga and why it was produced. In particular the social and cultural contexts for sex art in Japan are explored.
Erotic Japanese art was heavily suppressed in Japan from the 1870s onwards as part of a process of cultural ‘modernisation’ that imported many contemporary western moral values. Only in the last twenty years or so has it been possible to publish unexpurgated examples in Japan and this landmark book places erotic Japanese art in its historical and cultural context for the first time.
Drawing on the latest scholarship and featuring over 400 images of works from major public and private collections, this important book looks at painted and printed erotic images produced in Japan during the Edo period (1600–1868) and early Meiji era (1868–1912). These are related to the wider contexts of literature, theatre, the culture of the pleasure quarters, and urban consumerism; and interpreted in terms of their sensuality, reverence, humour and parody.
Timothy Clark is Head of the Japanese Section at the British Museum, London.
C. Andrew Gerstle is Head of the Department of Japan and Korea and Professor of Japanese studies at SOAS, University of London.
Aki Ishigami is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Kinugasa Research Organization, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto.
Akiko Yano is Leverhulme Research Fellow in the Department of Japan and Korea at SOAS, University of London.