Shunga, which literally translates to “spring picture,” is an alluring form of erotic art. Tantalizing paintings, prints, and woodblocks depicting highly sexualized imagery became popular during the Japanese Edo period (17th to 19th century). During this period, Japan was experiencing a booming economy that resulted in plenty of leisure time. Less time laboring away on the farm meant more time for sex. More sex then led to more horny people who wanted erotic inspiration.
Porn is Born
Some people would argue that Shunga is the foundation of pornography. But historians state that Shunga art was more than just an arousing form of eye candy. Couples doing the deed was also educational. Illustrations from innocuous sensual poses to hardcore oral and anal sex served as guidance for young brides and horny male teenagers. There is a superstitious angle to Shunga as well. Used as a sexual talisman, Shunga prints and “pillow books” were often passed from partner to partner, friend to friend, and parent to child and used as a good luck charm or ward off death.
And just like that, Shunga was banned by the Japanese Shogunate in 1722. The art was hidden away well until the 20th Century. But its legacy lives on through Swedish Artist, Senju.
Modern Shunga by Senju
Matti Sandberg, a.k.a. Senju, is from Stockholm, Sweden. His astounding career explores the realms of painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, design, tattooing, and writing. Senju has a highly distinctive style, blending the traditional Shunga aesthetic with elements of modern society. His artwork appears light-hearted, yet passionate and spotlights extravagantly clothed lovers engaged in a series of erotically charged moments.
“Sexuality is perhaps one of our most primal and most personal ways of expressing ourselves. We long for intimacy, closeness, and the touch of another human being. The visual depiction of sex goes back to the beginning of human kinds first attempts at artistically interpret the world around us.” – Senju
“I just want to experiment, shock, or ask questions about tolerance, empathy or why certain things are regarded as taboo. I invite you to enjoy my visual eroticisms and hope each of you can find something to make the day and night a little bit more wonderful.”