Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
||+ Seal A
||+ Seal B
[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 30 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 30th 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'.
Initial edition I publication of 30 was in July 1930 (or perhaps slightly later) in installment 15 (of fifty).
However, additional edition I printings may have continued until 1933.
The copy illustrated here is typical of edition I.
Rakusan considered 30 to be one of his best designs and included edition I copies in at least four formal presentation albums, one in 1935 and three or four more in 1940. (Only one of these albums is known to be in a public collection, see below.) There are currently no documented examples of 30 in edition II. Since multiple, good quality, edition I copies were still available as late as 1940, it is possible that edition II reprintings between then and the studio closure in 1941 were never necessary. Edition III reprintings of 30 can only be approximately dated from between 1948 and 1955.
The two main editions can be distinguished easily by color differences:
In almost all edition I copies the upper background is a warm, reddish tan which lightens as it shades gradually into a pale yellow-green bokashi in the lower right. In a few (presumably later) edition I copies there is a sharp demarcation between a paler tan and the lower yellow-green, but the colors are similar to others in the edition.
In edition III the entire background is an even gray-beige covered with darker, gray-green bokashi centered in the lower portion. The leaves and stems in the upper half (and the underside of the bird) are very much lighter shades containing a higher percentage of opaque white pigment.
30 is one of the very few Rakusan designs for which any printing details exist.
The Foster booklet reports that an edition I copy of 30 required 120 printing impressions to complete.
30alt, a woodblock print of an alternate sketch of the same design subject was issued the month before the initial printing of 30 as a preview advertisement.
Other Foster Information:
30 is among the most familiar Rakusan designs because of Walter Foster.
In addition to marketing original Rakusan woodblock prints of 30 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, an edition I copy of 30 in Foster's personal collection.
One version is a fine art reproduction produced for individual sale, and the other appears as page 22 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 30 are actually copies of page 22 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.
The booklet illustration has an overall yellow tinge, and the original background is beige-tan at the top and not yellow.
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 30 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 30 "Black Bird", a name he also used for 45, a woodpecker.
[For additional general information on Foster, the booklet, or the fine art reproductions, see the Foster article.]
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, Amherst, MA, USA; (AC 2004.151.03) [illustrated online]; from an October 29, 1935 presentation album.
Tawny Daylily (Common Orange Daylily), Hemerocallis fulva
, is properly called 藪萱草, やぶかんぞう, ヤブカンゾウ, yabu-kanzou
, lit. 'thicket daylily'.
The plant is originally a Chinese import, but it has been naturalized in Japan for centuries.
The scientific varietal name kwanso
is borrowed from an earlier version of the Japanese name; (萱草 was formerly read and written in kana script as kuwanzou
The general name for all Hemerocallis daylilies is 萱草, かんぞう, カンゾウ, kanzou, lit. 'reed-herb'. However, in the title-caption for 30 Rakusan has mistakenly written this name as 甘草 (also read kanzou, but here lit. 'sweet-herb'). Unfortunately, 甘草 has long been the name of a different (and unrelated) plant, Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra, whose root is the source of familiar sweet candies and flavorings.
White-winged Widowbird Euplectes albonotatus is an exotic African species often kept in aviaries.
Today the bird is usually called ハジロホウオウ(ジャク), 羽白鳳凰(雀), hajiro-houou(jaku), lit. 'wing-white phoenix(-sparrow)'.
Rakusan instead used 羽衣鳥, hagoromo-chou, lit. 'feather-robe bird'. Hagoromo has mythological associations also familiar in Noh drama, e.g. Hagoromo Gitsune.
In modern ornithological usage ハゴロモ, 羽衣, hagoromo is used as a general descriptor meaning 'dark-cloaked, dark-caped, etc.' in other bird names.