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Manuel Colombo + Bunny Roberts
«The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife» is a woodblock-printed design by the Japanese artist Hokusai. It is included in Kinoe no Komatsu (English: Young Pines), a three-volume book of shunga erotica first published in 1814, and has become Hokusai’s most famous shunga design.
Playing with themes popular in Japanese art, it depicts a young ama diver entwined sexually with a pair of octopuses.
The image is often cited as a forerunner of tentacle erotica, a motif that has been common in modern Japanese animation and manga since the late 20th century, popularized by author Toshio Maeda.
Modern tentacle erotica similarly depicts sex between women and tentacled beasts; the sex in modern depictions is typically forced, as opposed to Hokusai’s mutually pleasurable interaction.
The work has influenced later artists such as Félicien Rops, Auguste Rodin, Louis Aucoc, Fernand Khnopff and Pablo Picasso. Picasso painted his own version in 1903 that has been shown next to Hokusai’s original in exhibits on the influence of 19th-century Japanese art on Picasso’s work.
In 2003, a derivative work by Australian painter David Laity, titled The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, sparked a minor obscenity controversy when it was shown at a gallery in Melbourne; after receiving complaints Melbourne police investigated and decided it did not break the city’s pornography laws.