Shunga. Sex and pleasure in Japanese art



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In early modern Japan, thousands of sexually explicit paintings, prints, and illustrated books with texts were produced, euphemistically called spring pictures (shunga). Frequently tender, funny and beautiful, shunga were mostly done within the popular 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. This catalogue of a major international exhibition aims to answer some key questions about what shunga is 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. Drawing on the latest scholarship and featuring over 400 works from major public and private collections, this landmark book places erotic Japanese art in its historical and cultural context for the first time.

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