Utamaro-s Erotica

Paul Binnie, Scottish, b. 1967

A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo: Utamaro's Erotica
(Edo zumi hyaku shoku: Utamaro no Shunga)

the series title cartouche in the upper right margin, the print title to the left with the first portion, Utamaro no, in the style of Utamaro's signature, followed by a picture of a kissing couple representing shunga; signed in gold kanji, Bin-ni, followed by artist's butterfly seal comprised of the letters Binnie, pencil numbered and signed on the bottom margin, 7/100 Paul Binnie, ca. 2005

dai oban tate-e 16 7/8 by 11 3/4 in., 43 by 30 cm

The beauty's back tattoo is derived from one of the compositions included in Kitagawa Utamaro's (1753-1806) picture book from 1802: Pulling Komachi (Ehon Komachi-biki), a book of shunga, pictorial erotic art. Binnie preserved the woman's flowing purple robe and sideways posture but removed the mirror by which, in Utamaro's original image, she was fixing her hair. Instead, Binnie provides an unobstructed view of her long hair, while hiding the erotic act (suggested by the man's hand reaching down) on the far side of the model's back.

Of all of the designs in the Edo Ink series, this (and its red-ground counterpart, Engawa) has been the most popular. It seems only appropriate that Binnie's print paying homage to Utamaro, arguably the most successful ukiyo-e bijin artist, would likewise be one of Binnie's most successful works.

Paul Binnie: A Dialogue with the Past - The First 100 Japanese Prints, 2007, p. 121, no. 84



Paul Binnie, Scottish, b. 1967


signed at the lower left in gold kanji, Bin-ni, followed by artist's silver seal Binnie, titled and signed in sumi ink on the bottom margin, A/P (artist's proof), Engawa, Paul Binnie, the edition limited to only 30 impressions, 2004

dai oban tate-e 16 3/8 by 11 3/4 in., 41.7 by 29.9 cm

You could say this 'come hither' beauty, set against a seductive deep burgandy background, launched all the others- as it was Binnie's first female nude woodblock print. Apparently he did not anticipate the popularity of his bijin nudes, and this design in particular, for the tiny edition of just 30 impressions quickly sold out. A few months later in January 2005 he used the same figure in the print, Utamaro's Erotica from the tattoo series, A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo (Edo zumi hyaku shoku: Utamaro no shunga) in an edition of 100 which has very nearly sold-out.

Eventually demand for his earlier bijin prints inspired Binnie to revisit popular designs, providing the artist with an opportunity to explore other palettes and collectors with the opportunity to acquire examples of his strongest works- without (for the time being) having to compete on the secondary market. In 2009, he issued a new edition of this design, with changes to the blocks and a lush raspberry red background, in an editon of 100 as a part of his Eastern Brocade Beauties print series

Paul Binnie: A Dialogue with the Past - The First 100 Japanese Prints, 2007, p. 120, no. 83



Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays, 11am - 5pm, by appointment.

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
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site last updated
February 20, 2020

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475