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Friday, 29 January 2010

Picasso and Erotic Prints from Japan: yet another side to Picasso

“Art and sexuality are the same thing.”--Picasso

You have just two more weeks to go to check out “Secret Images: Picasso and Erotic Prints from Japan” at the Picasso Museum of Barcelona. The official publicity talks about the life-long dialog between the great painter and the erotic tradition in Japan and the exhibit contains 61 major Japanese erotic prints, some of which date back to the 17th century, and Picasso drawings which show their influence. These drawings span the years from when a hungry, young Picasso sold his erotic drawings “on the clandestine market”, as the exhibit puts it, to when he was an established multi-millionaire with the same sexual obsessions.

This is billed as a collection of Japanese prints from Picasso´s private collection but he acquired most of them in 1934 and there is no hard evidence of his owning more than one in his quiet days in Clichy, Paris. But Japan had been introduced into Europe at the end of the 20th century and was certainly in the avant-garde air.

This museum goer was especially interested in the long Japanese tradition of depicting women in compromising positions with octopuses and fish, themes which fascinated both Picasso and Toulouse Lautrec as well as others. So, the exhibit is a little spicy, but Picasso says that “Art is never chaste and should be forbidden to innocents.”

We learn that, unlike in the West, erotica was not at all marginal in Japan. Shungo, as these erotic prints were called were in wide and respectable circulation and were used in sex education dating from 1764. Much of the exhibit is not pornographic; there is an official Picasso poster of Madame Sadayakko, a geisha-trained Japanese artist who was all the rage at the time, and a learned discussion of Japanese print techniques.

Picasso says, “Everything about the East seduces me. The West and its civilization are merely the leftovers from the gigantic loaf that is the East.” You will certainly find something to be seduced by in this exhibit which can be seen alone or together with the permanent museum collection. In any case it shows yet another side of the multi-faceted Spanish genius.

by Michael Oudyn

1 comment:

Inferno said...

I would so have loved to be able to see that show.