Shunga: Sex And Pleasure In Japanese Art at the British Museum is a joyful celebration

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Art review: Shunga – Sex And Pleasure In Japanese Art at the British Museum.

Centuries before Dr Alex Comfort published The Joy Of Sex, the Japanese were busy compiling their own sex manuals.

Shunga, which roughly translates as ‘spring pictures’, were sexually explicit paintings, prints and illustrations, 170 of which are on show at the British Museum. The nature of this erotic art means this exhibition is strictly off-limits to the under-16s: expect lots of stylised (and exaggerated) genitalia on the walls.

Flourishing between the 17th and 19th centuries, the art form celebrated joyful coupling in all its forms, acting as a handbook for good sex. As you tour this intriguing exhibition, you realise that joy is the key word. In Japanese culture, there was little sense of sin or guilt attached to sex. This was material newly-weds could buy or husbands could give their wives.

Moreover, these pictures were…

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