Tongue in Cheek: Erotic Art in 19th-Century Japan

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_tongue-in-cheek_2005_0114

    Keisai Eisen (1790-1848). Untitled, from the series 'Picture Book: The Beautiful Grass of Women' (Ehon fukamigusa), Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1823. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003 (2005.0114)

November 14, 2013 - March 09, 2014
Honolulu Museum of Art


Exhibition Overview

This is the second in a series of three exhibitions that explore the development of Japan’s sexual culture through woodblock prints, woodblock-printed books, and paintings in the genre of shunga (erotic art; literally, “spring pictures”). Tongue in Cheek deals with lighthearted topics such as erotic humor as well as more complex sociological issues, like the mechanics of Japan’s sex industry. In addition, it introduces unique aspects of 19th-century shunga, such as xenophobic depictions of foreigners, a growing interest in supernatural subject matter, and the embrace of grotesquerie as an aesthetic.

Similar to last year’s groundbreaking Arts of the Bedchamber: Japanese Shunga, which featured the pioneers of ukiyo-e (literally, “pictures of the floating world”) in the 17th and 18th centuries, this exhibition includes highlights from the renowned James A. and Mari Michener Collection as well as the Richard Lane Collection. The 19th-century artists represented in Tongue in Cheek include masters such as Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858), Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), and Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1862).

Tongue in Cheek: Erotic Art in 19th Century Japan is co-curated by Shawn Eichman, the curator of Asian art, and Stephen Salel, the Robert F. Lange Foundation research associate for Japanese art at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

See the complete exhibition online.