ENTERTAINMENT

Erotic Art Today And Throughout History

Satisfy your taste for the sensual with these erotic art pieces from around the world.

Some people think that the casualness with which the modern world celebrates nudity and sex in art is a new phenomenon. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Simply look at erotic art since ancient times and you will easily find several examples that prove otherwise.

Sexuality and the naked form have long been an object of fascination for us human beings. Any erotic artist today is just following a grand tradition that spans centuries, if not millenia. 

Let’s take a look at the history of erotic art, what it means to us, and a few of the most famous (and controversial) pieces of erotic art known to mankind.

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What Is Erotic Art? Is It The Same As Porn?

It’s hard to define “erotic art” because what constitutes “erotic” and “art” is quite subjective. Those words fluctuate in meaning depending on time, place, and culture. What is considered erotic in 19th century Brazil is different from what was considered erotic in ancient Greece. And even today, even two people from similar backgrounds might have wildly different definitions!

Generally speaking, erotic art is any artistic expression of eroticism a.k.a. sex or nudity. Not all nude depictions are erotic art, however, and not all erotic art involves nudity. Eroticism is more of an energy of sexual tension and arousal. More often than not, erotic art depicts sexual acts as well. Erotic art can take many forms such as photos, illustrations, sketches, literature, music, theatre, or performance art. 

Partly due to the vague definition, there is one question that always gets asked: is erotic art the same as porn? After all, they both deal with similar subjects – the naked, the sexy, and the arousing. But there also seems to be a line dividing the two; erotic art can be found in museums and galleries, while porn is relegated to internet videos and the pages of magazines.

But it’s not so much the medium that separates erotic art from pornography, it’s more of the intent. Erotic art can be sexually arousing and stimulating, but that’s not its only purpose. Erotic art can be political, make a strong statement about society, display incredible skill, or revolutionise a medium. Pornography, on the other hand, is created specifically with the viewer’s sexual pleasure in mind.

Still, there’s no objective measure or institutional body that declares whether something is porn or fine art. It often boils down to intuition – you just simply know. 

Different people will have different opinions, though. And there are also works of art that blur the line to the point where the distinction sometimes seems pretty arbitrary and meaningless.

Beautiful Erotic Art Across The World

Shunga

What: Ink paintings or woodblock prints

Where: Japan

When: Edo period (17th-19th century)

Who: Various artists

Shunga are old Japanese erotic paintings, usually on silk or paper, that depict some very explicit scenes. Their subjects ranged from standard sex between a couple to wild depictions of tentacles, orgies, and anything else you could possibly imagine.

Ancient Greek Vases

What: Painted pottery

Where: Greece

When: 5th-3rd century BC

Who: Various artists

Red-figure pottery was developed in Athens and was used to tell stories, depict everyday life, and portray some mind-blowingly raunchy scenes. It wasn’t uncommon to find vases with erotic illustrations, full of naked men and women in all sorts of uncompromising positions.

The Garden Of Earthly Delights

What: Oil on oak panels

Where: Netherlands

When: Between 1490 and 1510

Who: Hieronymus Bosch

From the innocent sexuality depicted in the leftmost panel’s Garden of Eden to the pockets of pleasure and punishment of the rightmost panel’s hellscape, Bosch’s famous triptych offers something new every time you look at it. Very few paintings even today are able to capture eroticism, sensuality, depravity, and the macabre all at once.

Loves Of The Gods

What: Prints

Where: Italy

When: Between 1490 and 1510

Who: Jacopo Caraglio

Italian printmaker Caraglio avoided the censorship of his erotic sketches and prints by depicting mythological gods in suggestive poses. His Loves of the Gods series became one of the most well-known erotic prints from the Renaissance period. Most of his prints were based off erotic drawings by friend and fellow artist Rosso Fiorentino.

La Sorciere

What: Illustrations

Where: France

When: 1911

Who: Martin van Maele

Martin van Maele was a popular French artist. He was most known for his illustration work accompanying classic erotic literature. La Sorciere is just one of many sexually-charged sketches Maele produced in his lifetime. La Grande Danse macabre des vifs collects 40 of his best (and most erotic) illustrations.

Bondage Series

What: Photography

Where: Japan

When: 1997

Who: Nobuyoshi Araki

When it comes to erotic photos, few are as acclaimed (and as controversial) as those by famed Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. Araki is known for his gorgeous and haunting photos of women, often tied up in the style of shibari, or the art of Japanese rope bondage.

Darling Kink

What: Comics, murals, and illustrations

Where: Philippines

When: Presently active

Who: Kay Aransanzo

You can find erotic art in every nook and cranny on earth. Darling Kink is illustrator Aransanzo’s passion project, which includes everything from erotic cartoons to adult colouring books to a sexy downloadable font.

Conclusion

Whether you prefer historical fertility statues or today’s Instagram erotica community, there’s one thing that’s for sure: erotic artwork is a wild, wild world. 

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