Aug 17
The British Museum present exhibition ‘Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese art PDF Печат Е-поща
Автор: artnovini.com   
Сряда, 04 Декември 2013г. 00:04ч.

Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806), Lovers in the upstairs room of a teahouse, from Utamakura (Poem of the Pillow), c. 1788. Sheet from a colour-woodblock printed album. © Copyright of The Trustees of the British MuseumThe exposition is drawn from collections in the UK, Japan, Europe and USA and include some 170 works.

LONDON. In early modern Japan, 1600-1900, thousands of sexually explicit works of art were produced, known as ‘spring pictures’ (shunga). This exhibition in the British Museum (Room 90-91)*, the first of its kind in the UK, examines the often tender, funny, beautiful and undoubtedly accomplished shunga that were produced by some of the masters of Japanese art, including Utamaro and Hokusai.

Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889), One of Three comic shunga paintings (detail), c. 1871-1889. Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper. Photo: © Israel Goldman collection.The exhibition is drawn from collections in the UK, Japan, Europe and USA and feature some 170 works including paintings, sets of prints and illustrated books with text. 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. The exhibition explores key questions about what is shunga, how it circulated and to whom, and why was it produced. In particular it begins to establish the social and cultural contexts for sex art in Japan and aims to reaffirm the importance of shunga in Japanese art history.

Shunga were mostly produced within the popular school known as ‘pictures of the floating world’ (ukiyo-e), by celebrated artists such as Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-1694), Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806) and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Earlier, medieval narrative art in Japan had already mixed themes of sex and humour. Luxurious shunga paintings were also produced for ruling class patrons by traditional artists such as members of the Kano school, sometimes influenced by Chinese examples. This was very different from the situation in contemporary Europe, where religious bans and prevailing morality enforced an absolute division between ‘art’ and ‘pornography’.

It is true that official life in this period was governed by strict Confucian laws, but private life was less controlled. Banned after 1722, but rarely suppressed in practice, shunga publications flourished on the boundaries between these two worlds, even critiquing officialdom on occasion. Paintings were never the object of censorship, and national networks of commercial lending-libraries, the main means of distribution for shunga books, were not regulated.

Early modern Japan was certainly not a sex-paradise. Confucian ethics that focused on duty and restraint were promoted in education for all classes, and laws on adultery, were severe. There were also many class and gender inequalities, and a large and exploitative commercial sex industry (the ‘pleasure quarters’). However, the values promoted in shunga are generally positive towards sexual pleasure for all participants: in one memorable colour print from the series Erotic Illustrations for the Twelve Months of c. 1788 by Katsukawa Shuncho (worked 1780s-1790s), for instance, a husband and wife enjoy lovemaking at a window in mid-summer, to the cry of a cuckoo. Women’s sexuality was readily acknowledged and male-male sex recognised in particular social contexts. Although men were the main producers and consumers, it is clear that women also were an important audience; the custom of presenting shunga to women in a marriage trousseau seems to have been common, and some works seem to have been created more for women than for men. During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, shunga was all but removed from popular and scholarly memory in Japan and became taboo. Ironically, it was just at this time that shunga was being discovered and enthusiastically collected by European and US artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). The British Museum acquired its first shunga prints as part of the George Witt Collection in 1865 and now has one of the best collections outside of Japan.

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The British Museum has long been committed to displaying the best of Japanese art and culture. In 1995 the Museum staged the exhibition The Passionate Art of Utamaro, which included all of the great shunga works by that artist. Many other major special Japan-related exhibitions have been presented at the BM on such themes as Rimpa art (1998), Shinto (2001), Kazari (2003), Kabuki Heroes (2005), Crafting Beauty (2007), Dogu (2009), as well as a complete re-installation since 2006 of the Museum’s Japanese collections in the Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries, Japan from prehistory to the present. Since 2005 one Japan-related Objects in Focus display has been presented each year in Room Three, the Asahi Shimbun display series, including Manga, Hokusai’s Great Wave and Jomon prehistoric ‘flame’ pots.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a public programme of lectures and events.

The international research project has been funded by a generous grant from the Leverhulme Trust, involving a wide network of more than thirty scholars worldwide.

The four principal institutional research partners are: The British Museum; School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London; International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken), Kyoto; Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto.

Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1750), Sexual dalliance between a man and geisha, c. 1711-1716. Hand-coloured woodblock print. © Copyright of The Trustees of the British MuseumIn conjunction with the exhibition, British Museum Press publish a catalogue (Edited by: Timothy Clark is Head of the Japanese Section at the British Museum, London; C. Andrew Gerstle is Head of the Department of Japan and Korea and Professor of Japanese studies at SOAS, University of London; Aki Ishigami is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Kinugasa Research Organization, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto; Akiko Yano is Leverhulme Research Fellow in the Department of Japan and Korea at SOAS, University of London), with contributions from more than thirty authors worldwide. Lavishly illustrated, this volume feature new research and previously unpublished material from major public and private collections. The catalogue edited by: Timothy Clark is Head of the Japanese Section at the British Museum, London; C. Andrew Gerstle is Head of the Department of Japan and Korea and Professor of Japanese studies at SOAS, University of London; Aki Ishigami is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Kinugasa Research Organization, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto; Akiko Yano is Leverhulme Research Fellow in the Department of Japan and Korea at SOAS, University of London.

The exhibition is part of Japan400, a nationwide UK series of events celebrating 400 years of Japan-British relations.

The exhibition has been generously sponsored by Shunga in Japan LLP.

The exhibition follows after a major three-year international research project from 2009-2012, funded by a generous grant from the Leverhulme Trust.

The exhibition Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese art continues until 5 January 2014.

* N.B. - Parental guidance advised for visitors under 16 years.

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