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 twentieth 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.
In the documents for installment five sent out on September 21, 1929 Rakusan announced that 20 would be published in October (the following month) in installment six as the twelfth design. Installment five was the first of the installments to include design preview prints, and accordingly Rakusan included 20alt, a woodblock print of an alternate sketch of the same design subject as the intended twelfth design (see Related Designs below).
However, 20 would not be ready in time, and at the last minute a different design (12) was substituted and published in installment six as the twelfth design.
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 November (the next following month) in installment seven as the fourteenth design.
However, 20 was still not ready, and again at the last minute another design (14) was substituted and published in installment seven as the fourteenth design.
Here the surviving documentation of the early installments ceases, but initial edition I publication of 20 did not ultimately occur until February 1930 (or perhaps slightly later) in installment ten (of fifty) as the twentieth design. The cumulative delay amounted to five months after the first preview announcement (instead of the usual one month), and it is possible that Rakusan continued to announce 20 as an upcoming design over the intervening months.
Rakusan apparently reprinted 20 at least once late in edition I (perhaps as late as early1933). These later edition I copies are not currently distinguishable from the original print run.
The copy illustrated here is typical of edition I.
Uncharacteristically, Rakusan changed the placement of the signature and seal for the later editions of 20.
In edition I they are at upper left, and in edition II and edition III they are at lower right.
Because currently only a very few copies of later editions of 20 have been documented, apparently only very small print runs of either were produced .
Edition II reprintings of 20 probably date from the very end of the period 1935-1941. Edition II copies were still available for sale via Walter Foster after World War II and bear typical Rakusan secondary cursive signatures.
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 attributive marking are preserved in the Tsuchiya Family Collection. The example in the Foster booklet probably comes from that same later 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.