Japanese Erotic Art: Shunga

sex in art

Art and sex come together at the British Museum in a new exhibition called Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese art. Shunga, which is the Japanese term for erotic art, literally meaning spring pictures, is a selection 170 works from collections around the world, in the form of paintings, prints and illustrated books. The erotic art is from the 1600s through to 1900.

Here’s a few works from the show..

erotic japanese art

Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671 – 1750), Sexual dalliance between a man and geisha, c. 1711 – 1716. Hand-colored woodblock print. Copyright of The Trustees of the British Museum.

nude japanese girl

Kitagawa Utamaro (d. 1806), Uwaki no so from the series Fujin sogaku juttai (Ten Types in the Physiognomic Study of Women), c. 1792 – 1793. Color woodblock print with white mica ground. Copyright of The Trustees of the British Museum.

japanese sex art

Sugimura Jihei (fl. 1681 – 1703), Lovers under a quilt with phoenix design, untitled erotic picture, mid – 1680s. Private collection, USA.

cat touching balls

Kawanabe Kyosai (1831 – 1889), One of Three comic shunga paintings (detail), c. 1871 – 1889. Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper. Israel Goldman collection.

sex in art

Kitagawa Utamaro (d. 1806), Lovers in the upstairs room of a teahouse, from Utamakura (Poem of the Pillow), c. 1788. Sheet from a color-woodblock printed album. Copyright of The Trustees of the British Museum.

Shunga opens on the 3rd of October and is showing through to the 5th of January. See more on the Japanese erotic art exhibition at the British Museum website here.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. The top one is beautiful, but not crazy about the rest except the cat playing with his catnip balls. Japanese draughtsmanship is still my favorite, energizing space better than anyone else until Moderns picked up on it. Would like to do some erotic art myself, but wife isn’t havin it. Nor my looking afar for sources, darnit.
    Your girl did some nice watercolor erotic works, still not crazy about her stiff and stereotyped acrylics. difficult to achieve. Need to dedicate oneself to sensual depictions of carnal
    pleasure, niiiiiice.

  2. Yeah there wasn’t a lot of good quality pictures to choose from. Not sure if that’s to surprise viewers with great works when they get to the exhibition or there’s just not a lot of great works in it. There’s 170 works on display though.

    The cat and the balls is one quirky picture! haha

    I planned to start buying some erotic art when I moved into my house. I wanted a whole room of nudes and soft porn! But with earnings way down and a mortgage to pay I cant even buy posters at the moment!

  3. These are all beautiful works, it’s amazing how erotica art has changed over the centuries and cultures.

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