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 39 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 39th 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 39 was in December 1930 (or perhaps slightly later) in installment twenty (of fifty).
However, additional edition I printings may have continued until mid 1933.
The copy illustrated here is typical of edition I.
No edition II copies of 39 are currently known.
Edition III reprintings of 39 can only be dated approximately from between 1948 and 1955.
Copies of all editions of 39 are similarly colored and edition can only be determined securely from the attribution markings.
39 is one of the very few Rakusan designs for which any printing details exist.
The Foster booklet reports that 39 required 150 printing impressions to complete.
39alt, a woodblock print of an alternate sketch of the same design subject was issued the month before the initial printing of 39 as a preview advertisement.
Other Foster Information:
39 is among the most familiar Rakusan designs because of Walter Foster.
In addition to marketing original Rakusan woodblock prints of 39 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 III copy of 39 in Foster's personal collection.
One version is a fine art reproduction produced for individual sale, and the other appears as page 10 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 39 are actually copies of page 10 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 9.25" x 12.5"); 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 39 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 39 "Five Birds in Pine tree", but actually only one bird is in the tree.
[For additional general information on Foster, the booklet, or the fine art reproductions, see the Foster article.]
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, HI, USA; (1938) 10997 [illustrated online].
In Japanese, 松, まつ, マツ, matsu
, is a general name for all kinds of pine trees, Pine, Pinus
Rakusan uses the general name with the descriptor 小, ko
, 'small, young' which refers to the age and/or size of the pine and is not a species designation.
In the future it might be possible to identify the species more closely although the single cone illustrated is at an awkward angle.
Prominent in the composition but not mentioned in the title caption, is a kind of dry grass.
Since Rakusan includes several longer stems with leaves and at least three seed heads, it should be possible to identify the genus and perhaps even the species.
Long-tailed Rosefinch, Uragus sibericus, 紅猿子, べにましこ, ベニマシコ, beni-mashi-ko, lit. 'red monkey-child', is a native Japanese species.
Rakusan shows a flock of five birds, three brightly colored males and two plainer females.