Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
||+ Seal A
||(first use of this combination in this series)
||+ Seal B
||San Setsu An Raku-zan
||+ Seal B
|| (in Foster Booklet)
[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article.
For edition characteristics applicable to this series as a whole, see the Edition article.]
This woodblock print was produced from an original painting on silk dating from the late 1920s whose current location is unknown.
The indentification of this design as number 20 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 20th design in his series of one hundred woodblock prints called 楽山花鳥畫譜, Rakuzan Kachou Gafu
, lit. 'Rakusan's Flower and Bird Print Series'.
Because copies of the delivery documents for installments five and six have survived, it is known that Rakusan encountered repeated problems in publishing 20 as planned.
Rakusan first announced 20 as upcoming in the documents for installment five sent out on September 21, 1929, indicating that he planned to publish 20 in the following month, October, in installment six (as his twelfth design).
Installment five was the first of the installments to include design previews, and in it Rakusan sent out 20alt, a woodblock print of an alternate sketch of the same design subject (see Related Designs below).
However, 20 was not ready, and at the last minute a different design was substituted and published as 12 in installment six.
Rakusan again announced 20 as upcoming in the documents for installment six sent out on October 25, 1929, indicating that he planned to publish 20 in the following month, November, in installment seven (as his fourteenth design).
20 was still not ready and again at the last minute another design was substituted and published as 14 in installment seven.
Here the surviving documentation of the early installments ceases, but obviously other delays in publication of 20 ensued.
Initial edition I publication of 20 did not finally occur until February 1930 (or perhaps slightly later) in installment ten (of fifty).
The delay amounted to five months after the preview announcement (instead of the usual one month).
Additional edition I reprintings of 20 may have continued until 1933.
The copy illustrated here is typical of edition I.
Currently, only a very few copies of either later edition of 20 have been documented which suggests smaller printing runs. Uncharacteristically, Rakusan changed the location placement of the signature and seal for the later editions.
In edition I they are at upper left, and in edition II and edition III they are at lower right.
Edition II reprintings of 20 probably date from the end of the period 1935-1941, though some were apparently still available for sale via Walter Foster after World War II.
Edition III reprintings of 20 can only be approximately dated from between 1948 and 1955, and again likely from toward the end of that period. At least one print run of edition III was produced without a woodblock-printed signature and seal. Undistributed copies without either marking are preserved in the Tsuchiya Family Collection. The example in the Foster booklet probably comes from that same print run since it has a hand-applied signature and seal.
20 is one of the very few Rakusan designs for which any other printing details exist.
The Foster booklet reports that 20 required 150 printing impressions to complete.
Other Foster Information:
20 is among the most familiar Rakusan designs because of Walter Foster.
In addition to marketing original Rakusan woodblock prints of 20 from Japan, Foster also sold two grades of reproductions which he had machine-printed in the USA.
Both reproduction versions were created from the same original model, a hand-signed edition III copy of 20 in Foster's personal collection.
One version is a fine art reproduction produced for individual sale, and the other appears as page 15 of the Foster booklet.
The fine art reproduction was produced to very high standards of photolithography on good quality, heavy matte paper; and the inks were carefully color-matched to those of the original woodblock print.
Because of this attention to detail, it was relatively expensive, few copies were sold, and they are seldom encountered today.
Instead, what are mostly offered for sale as reproductions of 20 are actually copies of page 15 cut from the Foster booklet.
Regrettably, the booklet was inexpensively and inexactly machine-printed on semi-gloss paper, and its illustration colors are not true to the original.
Both reproduction versions are of similar size (listed as 9" x 12"); therefore they are significantly smaller than the original woodblock print (listed as 13" x 18").
(Both reproductions actually maintain the unique proportions of the original woodblock print; so the advertised dimensions are only rough approximations.)
Initially, Foster sold original woodblock prints of 20 for $25, fine art reproductions for $3, and the entire booklet (with 27 different designs) for $1.
Because the Foster booklet was printed in great numbers and remains widely available today, it is usually less expensive to buy the entire booklet than a single page reproduction.
Because Foster could not read Rakusan's Japanese title-captions, he made up ones of his own to use in the booklet. Here he called 20 "Hydrangea and Doves".
[For additional general information on Foster, the booklet, or the fine art reproductions, see the Foster article.]
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA; (1951) 51.2485 [not illustrated online except as a slightly-cropped greeting card reproduction].
Bigleaf (Garden) Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla
, 紫陽花, あじさい, アジサイ, ajisai
, has been cultivated and selected for a long time in China and Japan.
Eurasian Collared (Turtle)Dove, Streptopelia decaocto, is originally an exotic pet bird regularly imported from India and locally bred. However, it was successfully released in Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it is now locally common.
Today, the Japanese name is usually 白子鳩, しらこばと, シラコバト, shirako-bato, lit. 'albino-dove'.
In the title-caption for 20 Rakusan used a now-unfamiliar name, 長生鳩, chousei-bato, lit. 'long-life dove'.
Two birds are shown, presumably intended as a mated pair; but since the sexes are alike, they could be any two birds.