Suzuki Harunobu and the Stylistic Evolution of Shunga

Suzuki Harunobu 鈴木春信 (1725?-1770) is best remembered as the innovator of full-color “brocade prints” (nishiki-e) through the use of multiple woodblocks made of cherry wood. He is also beloved for his lithe, androgynous figures, which exude an aura of refinement, delicacy, and coquettish innocence. It surprises some, therefore, that the artist published at least seven known erotic books or portfolios in addition to an incalculable number of single-sheet erotic prints. He is in fact credited with reinvigorating the genre of shunga, replacing the coarse style of Moronobu and the Torii School with a sense of grace and intimacy. Even James A. Michener, a collector whose taste in artwork was relatively conservative, spoke enthusiastically about the virtues of these ribald works of Harunobu.