Japanese prints at the British Museum
November 13, 2013 | by Carolin C. Young | Lovers in the Upstairs Room of a Teahouse from Utamakaura (Poem of the Pillow) by Kitagawa Utamaro, c. 1788. Sheet from a color wood block-printed album. © Trustees of the British Museum.
Those seeking salacious content, accompanied by illuminating explanations, can explore the sexually explicit Shunga art of Japan in an exhibition also hosted by the British Museum, which carries a prominent warning that “parental guidance is advised for visitors under sixteen years.” Contrasting the social context of the genre with what would be considered pornography in Western culture, the show explores Shunga as a forum for humor and political commentary as well as for titillation with examples by masters such as Utamaro and Hokusai. Although Shunga was created by and for men, the exhibition examines the ways in which this art depicts and appealed to women. Organized under the auspices of Japan 400, a nationwide series of events celebrating four hundred years of Japanese-British relations, the exhibition is accompanied by an extensive catalogue.
Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art • British Museum • to January 5, 2014 • britishmuseum.org