Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories By Utamaro, Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, and Other Artists of the Floating World
June 16th, 2011 by Aldouspi

Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories By Utamaro, Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, and Other Artists of the Floating World

Shunga, such as the famous Japanese erotic pillow books, also known euphemistically as 'spring images', were vibrant, curious and explicit documents of sexual life, designed to inform, thrill and entertain. This book presents a comprehensive modern study on Japanese erotic art, illustrating a large selection of the best works from public and private collections from around the world. Far from being a separate genre, Shunga constitutes at least half of the output of all ukiyo-e art, and often the

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2 Responses  
  • wiredweird "wiredweird" writes:
    June 16th, 20118:28 pmat
    7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Beautiful selections, December 5, 2010
    By 
    wiredweird “wiredweird” (Earth, or somewhere nearby) –
    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)
      

    This review is from: Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories By Utamaro, Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, and Other Artists of the Floating World (Hardcover)

    Shunga, the traditional Japanese “images of spring”, offer endless variety in their depictions of erotic interludes. Different examples feature humor, drama, affection, elegance, or wild abandon, often in combinations. For many reasons, including social nudity in public baths, mere undress held little erotic interest. As a result, shunga imagery often emphasizes rich clothing or other trappings of the pleasure quarters. This tradition carries other non-Western elements as well, including references to Japanese myth and history. Then there are visual conventions that might startle a Western eye, not least the mammoth exaggerations of his and her genitals favored by so many artists.

    Calza presents a gorgeous cross-section of this erotic tradition. Nearly two dozen chapters sample the works of individual artists, very roughly in chronological order. These include famous artists, like Utamaro and Hokusai, as well as images by lesser-known masters. A brief intro summarizes each artist’s life, when known, but after that the pictures speak for themselves. This organization lets the reader contrast the styles of different artists and eras, and to understand what make each artist’s contribution unique. Thorough end matter describes each work, and offers a helpful glossary, index, and bibliography.

    A few points might deserve clarification. First, although the title claims “Poem of the Pillow and other stories,” the stories themselves do not appear here, except for vague narrative within the pictures. Second, Amazon’s description states that the book is 384 pages long. My copy has pages numbered to 463. Also, this book comes with a heavy plastic slip-cover, something sure to help defend the book against its eager readers. The color printing captures subtleties of color beautifully, but one might ask more opacity in the pages’ paper. On the whole, I recommend this as a lovely and informative addition to any collection of Eastern or erotic art.

    — wiredweird

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  • Sacramento Book Review "Sacramento Book Review" writes:
    June 16th, 20119:05 pmat
    3 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Japanese erotic prints, not for the faint of heart, September 24, 2010
    This review is from: Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories By Utamaro, Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, and Other Artists of the Floating World (Hardcover)

    The history of Japanese erotic prints starts in the Tokugawa Shogunate. With the rise of pleasure quarters during a time of stability and peace across Japan, came the rise of erotic prints, both as manuals about sex and images of fantasies. With this collection, Gian Calza brings together the giants of the field of erotic prints during the Tokugawa, from the early ones from the late 1600’s to its end, when Japan was forced open to the West by Captain Perry. It was a time of relaxed social mores, lax censorship and freedom to discuss sex and sexual relations. Like all great artistic movements, this one has its leaders, those that were great artists. The decline saw more and more people trying to capitalize on the genre – who were not that great at art. With the masters, you see more than just the erotic nature; you see the detail and care that went into making the print, from the background, to the facial expressions, to the choice of color. This is not for anyone easily offended, the faint of heart, or anyone under the age of 21.

    Reviewed by Kevin Winter

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