Japanese artist Toshio Saeki — regarded internationally as the “Godfather of Japanese Erotica” — was born in 1945 and raised in Osaka. As a child, Saeki developed a knack for drawing and storytelling, entertaining other children with hand-made kamishibai (picture cards) and illustrations. At the Kyoto Municipal Hiyoshigaoka High School Art Program in the early 1960s, Saeki studied plaster sketching and oil painting, and made erotic shunga drawings for his friends. In 1969, he moved to Tokyo, where he worked to develop a unique, expressive style of art-making as the city began experiencing its own social and cultural revolution.
Saeki’s transgressive approach to erotica incorporated Japanese folklore and Shinto spirits, gore, mischief, violence and humor. A fan of samurai-period films and Yakuza B-movies as well as Western art and comics (particularly works by French illustrator Tomi Ungerer), Saeki’s primary influence was his own subconscious — his dreams, memories and supernatural visions. Saeki’s renegade sensibility captured the spirit of his generation, who in the 1970s were shaking up long-held notions of tradition, sex and self-expression. In the first half of the decade, Saeki self-published a book of 50 drawings, mounted a solo show in Paris, and had his work featured in Japanese magazines like Heibon Punch, Asahi Geinō and SM Select. By the 1990s, Saeki left Tokyo, and spent his later life in a rural mountain village of the Chiba Prefecture. “The visions that I show people are the incomprehensible stuff of ero [erotica] and mystery,” Saeki has said. “If the reality hidden in my soul — even if it is only the smallest fragment of it — is able to evoke something in the viewer, then my intention has been achieved.”
Supreme began working with Saeki on a collection in 2019. He passed away at the age of 74 before the project’s completion. The collection consists of a Work Jacket, Hooded Sweatshirt and Work Pant.
Available November 5.
Available in Japan November 7.