Friday, April 08, 2016

Though the earliest shunga (literally ‘spring pictures’, with ‘spring’ being a Japanese euphemism for sex) can be traced back much earlier, the art form is most closely associated with the Edo period and its ukiyo-e, woodblock prints that depicted Edo’s hedonistic ‘floating world’ of geisha, kabuki, sumo – and sex.

Shunga was painted by some of the best ukiyo-e artists of the day, including Kitagawa Utamaro and Katsushika Hokusai (Hokusai’s most famous shunga, which features some octopus-on-woman action, was the subject of a 1981 film titled ‘Edo Porn’). Shunga was in demand, and one commission from a wealthy buyer would reportedly keep an ukiyo-e artist eating for months.