15.07.2003 to 28.09.2003
Well-known for his over-sensual depictions of beautiful women in the pleasure quarters and in the bourgeois households of Edo in the second half of the 18th century, Utamaro was also a careful and sensitive observer of nature's beauty. His woodblock print book Ehon mushi erabi, "Illustrated Book of Selected Insects", published in 1788 by the famous publisher Tsutaya Jûzaburô, is be regarded today as one of the masterpieces of Japanese graphic art. The book compises of 15 double leaves with the naturalistic depiction of two insects and accompanying plants or vegetables on each page, using subtile coloration, luxurious gold and silver glimmer and complicated printing techniques. Moreover, the illustrations are accompanied by 30 amourous kyôka, "mad verses", by written 30 of the most famous poets of the time.
For the first time, the complete book is on show during the summer months. It will be accompanied by five leaves of the equally attractive, so-called "Small Flower-Series" by Katsushika Hokusai. Utamaro's plants and insects, and Hokusai's gorgeous flowers and birds give us a glimpse of Japan's colourful world of fauna and flora. The carefully observed and masterly rendered birds and insects evoke the lively atmosphere of a summer garden.