Monday, March 12, 2007

You won't find this on your calendar.

I love to buy calendars with famous paintings, and I often buy extras when they go on sale to use for "Art Appreciation" presentations at my son's school.

One of my favorite styles of art is the Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the late 19th century--these are the precursors to the movie and celebrity posters that often grace the walls of teen bedrooms...and Sports Illustrated swimsuit-types of photos that one finds more often than not behind the scenes in mechanic garages. In short, the portraits done in the ukiyo-e style were actors and actresses (mostly actors) in the kabuki theater--again, the celebrities of the day.

These were images that were easily affordable and thus available for the "common man" to purchase and hang in his/her home. Katsushi Hokusai was one of the most well-known ukiyo-e artists, and I know you've all seen some of his work, for he's famous for his Thirty Images of Mount Fuji.

However, he also did some shunga, or erotic, images in the woodblock print style, and I'll never forget the day in my collegiate History of Art class when this image popped up on the screen:

Yeah. Good thing the lights were turned low, 'cause I certainly wasn't expecting that!

The shunga images were often put in the infamous "pillow books" that were shared with courtesans and their customers. And well-to-do parents used the, er, shall we say, more conventional images as a sort of sex education tool for their children.

I rather doubt they'd be including this famous image by Hokusai, known as The Fisherman's Wife's Dream. It happens to be one of my favorites.


Kate Pearce said...

oh wow...look at all those tentacles.I'm not sure whether I'm fascinated or repelled!
Beautiful imagery-so classy!

Pam Rosenthal said...

Fascinating, hot, and mysterious. Thanks, I've never seen that.

Colette Gale said...

Yeah, all those tentacles! Definitely...thought-provoking.

meardaba said...

Oh the Japanese, those tentacle-obsessed people!
(See: monster hentai)

Celia May Hart said...

Tentacles, oh my! Hmm, you think any of our editors'd go for octopus sex?

You could even call it Octopussy *chortle*

Well, gang, I am off for the week. Next stop -- Babeland in Seattle, where I'm doing readings from my books -- and hopefully signing as well.

Robin L. Rotham said...

Gee, I don't feel quite so kinky now that I've seen that. Thanks, Colette.

Lenora Bell said...

Fascinating and lovely post, Colette. I'd like to see some ukiyo-e style romance novel covers. I recently saw a collection of gorgeous Chinese porcelain figurines featuring lovers in explicit postures. They were created to be concealed in the bottom of dowery trunks to educate brides.

Anonymous said...

That "cunning" shunga by Hokusai is one of my favorite shungas also. If you know of a good Asian book store, there are some good facsimilies of the pillow books by artists like Utamaro and Hokusai to be had for about $40.

I used to collect ukiyo-e and altho I don't consider myself an expert, I think you have a few typos in the post. Hokusai's series was "Thirty SIX Views of Mount Fuji" (technically 46 actually). Hokusai later expanded the series in "100 Views of Mt Fuji". Also, altho you cite "woodblock prints of the late 19th century", the three pictures you posted all seem to be prints from the first half of the 19th century instead

jmbalton said...

Does anyone know where I could buy a print or poster of "Dream of the fisherman's wife"?

I've been looking but can't seem to find any!

Wonder why...