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Last Friday after work, I went to the British Museum to see the new exhibition Shunga: Sex and humour in Japanese art 1600-1900. It was an eye-opener – beautiful images painted in Japan over three centuries, showing explicit scenes.

Shunga (the name means ‘spring pictures’) were popular in Japan from around 1600 to 1900. Beyond that, they continued to circulate even though they were banned for most of the 20th century. These works are explicit, sensual, funny and beautiful, combining eroticism and art in a way that wasn’t really matched in the West. Most of the images show men and women in compromising positions, but others are more unusual, such as the lady being pleasured by an octopus, and the men comparing sizes. Shunga influenced Western artists such as Tolouse-Lautrec and Aubrey Beardsley, and continue to influence manga and anime.

The exhibition runs until 5 January and I recommend it – but not if you’re easily offended!

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