From: Asian Art Museum Limited Edition: 40 Exhibition: Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World 1690-1850 Material: Printed vinyl Dimensions: 35" x 72" (88.9cm x 182.88cm)
Hanging Hardware Included
Japanese "shunga" prints were popular for hundreds of years. Producing such explicit erotic prints was not considered base, and even big names such as Katsushika Hokusai and Kitagawa Utamaro produced "shunga". Often created as prints for broad circulation, some artists also produced unique paintings on paper or silk. Such is the case with the 18th century "Collection of Suggestive Images" by Katsukawa Shuncho. From the Asian Art Museum's recent exhibition "Drama and Desire" come 40 banners featuring a finely painted couple locked in a romantic embrace.
Living only for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves; singing songs, drinking wine, diverting ourselves in just floating, floating: caring not a whit for the pauperism staring us in the face, refusing to be disheartened, like a gourd floating along with the river current: this is what we call the floating world . . .
—Tales of the Floating World (Ukiyo Monogatari), approx. 1661, by Asai Ryoi
During Japan’s Edo period (1615-1868) the “Floating World” referred to the theater and pleasure quarters that were the domain of geisha, actors, courtesans, and pleasure-seekers. Japanese painters captured this Floating World of beautiful people, intimacy, and luxurious settings.
Paintings and prints done in the style known as ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world” were popular during the Edo period. Katsukawa Shuncho (active about 1781-1801) created a series of erotic works in this newer urban genre in the late 18th century dubbed his “Collection of Suggestive Pictures”. A detail of one of these images is seen on this banner from the Asian Art Museum. On the banner, a couple is locked in a romantic embrace as they lie on the ground enraptured with their eyes closed. The beautifully painted image, originally created on silk, covers the entire front of the banner. The other side of the banner is red with white text that reads “drama and desire/Feb 15 to May 4/Asian Art Museum” and includes the museum’s logo at the top.
These banners were displayed around San Francisco from February 15 through May 4, 2008 to promote the exhibition Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World 1690-1850 at the Asian Art Museum. The exhibition was also seen at The Museum of Fine Arts Boston.