Picasso and Hokusai: Erotica

March 04, 1999 - April 10, 1999

Yoshii Gallery is pleased to announce Picasso and Hokusai: Erotica, an exhibition that will be open to the public from March 4th through April 10th, 1999.  Picasso and Hokusai: Erotica pairs 20 etchings from Pablo Picasso’s portfolio Suite 347 (Erotica), from 1968, with an album of 12 colored woodcut prints by Katsushika Hokusai, Asumanishiki (Brocade of the East) circa 1810.

Picasso’s 20 etchings from Suite 347 (L. 296 – L. 315) known as Erotica, is loosely based on Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ painting Raphael and La Fornarina, from 1814.  Picasso occassionally appropriated images and scenes by other artists in his own work.  In Erotica, he depicts a pair of young lovers similar to the ones found in Raphael and La Fornarina and repeatedly explores the theme of frank, yet lyrical, physical intimacy.  The selection of 20 etchings from Suite 347 are perhaps the most erotically explicit works that Picasso did, and they are often withheld from public exhibitions of the suite.

Hokusai (1760-1849) is best known for his series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.  Among scholars, museums, and serious collectors, he is also known as a master of erotic woodcut prints, a genre that had wide popularity in Japan in the first quarter of the 19th century.  The example of Axumanishiki on view is a rare first edition of the album, which contains twelve woodcuts showing intimate views of a pair of lovers.

Although these 20 images from Suite 347 are rarely exhibited in museums, Picasso frequently explored the subject of physical intimacy in his private sketches.  In May 1945, according to Brassai’s Conversations avec Picasso (Gallimard, Paris, 1964), Picasso showed Brassai and Paul Éluard a sketchbook “to which he confides his very first sparks of inspiration, and also – primarily, in fact – his sexual obsessions.  All of his works that can be placed under the sign of Eros undoubtedly stem from these masculine preoccupations… And yet, in all these images of desire, a light veil of modesty disguises and transposes his obsessions into the symbolic, the magical, the mythological.”

In Conversations avec Picasso, Brassai also wrote, ” ‘Art is never chaste,’ [Picasso] told me one day as he was showing me some erotic woodcuts of Utamaro-prints of a rare beauty in which the organ of sex figured prominently but were stripped of all crudity and emerged as so many strange vegetable forms, par of a strange landscape, shaken by a strange wind of emotion…”

Picasso and Hokusai: Erotica is the first exhibition to present Picasso’s Erotica and works from the school of Japanese erotica that Picasso owned.

The exhibition wil be accompanied by an essay by Brigitte Baer on Picasso’s fascination with erotica and Japanese woodcut prints.  Ms. Baer is the author of the eight-volume catalogue raisonne of Picasso’s prints, Picasso Peintre-Graveur (Editions Karnfeld, Bern, 1986-1999) and a curator of Picasso: The Engraver, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997, Ms Baer also wrote the catalogue for the Metropolitan’s exhibition.