When you hear the word "Shunga", what kind of image pops up in your head?
Does "Erotic Ukiyo-e from the Edo Period" sound about right? That image is of course not wrong and it might even be an accurate description of Shunga's characteristics. However, if you do some research about "Shunga", you are more likely than not to be surprised about its high artistic quality and cultural value. "Shunga" is not drawn by just one Ukiyo-e artist but by several top-class artists such as Hishikawa Moronobu, Suzuki Harunobu, Torii Kiyonaga, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kunisada, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and Keisai Eisen.
After the "Kyoho Reforms", Ukiyo-e were required to be of a certain theme and limited to a set number of colors. However, the "Shunga" that were illegally sold among mostly the masses were not subject to the above restrictions. Here, the top-class Ukiyo-e artists were able to freely use their techniques to express themselves in their artwork. That is why some people are of the opinion that "Shunga is the pinnacle of Ukiyo-e".
The artistic quality of Shunga impacted not only other Ukiyo-e artists, but international legends such as Picasso himself, who created a recreation of Hokusai's "The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife". It's vivid colors, deformed expressions, and unrealistic compositions are said to have surpassed conventional fixed concepts.
"Shunga" performs a vital role in learning about the everyday life, values, and culture of people during the Edo period.
Mixed sex bathing was the norm during the Edo period. Seeing the naked bodies of men and women was not an uncommon concept, and the way people thought towards sex is said to have been more open-minded compared to now. During the Edo period, the over exaggerated paintings of male genitals were said to have lead to the prosperity of future generations and intercourse between the sexes was thought of as a good thing. The paintings even acted as sexual education material for unmarried women and newly wed couples. Also, if you look at the kimonos and hair styles in the paintings, you can see the fashion of the time as well as make guesses about the relationship between the two people and the differences in their status.
Being able to feel the sex culture, religious views, trends, and lifestyle of the Edo period from just one painting is another one of "Shunga's" splendid qualities.
A sexually free period where contented love and sexual happiness were mixed into erotic humor and expressed in a vivid, bold, and sensitive way to create the most fantasy based pornography in the world. This is what "Shunga" is, is it not?
At the event space will be a set of 12 paintings, 3 books, and a miniature book that is the size of the palm of your hand.
Some of the paintings contain slightly stimulating expressions, but it would be our pleasure if you could view the paintings with an open-mind just like the people of the Edo period, while taking in the artistic and cultural value of the paintings.