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 98 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 98th 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 98 was in May 1933 (or perhaps slightly later), and it was delivered in installment forty-nine (of fifty).
Because this design was among the last in the series, it was unlikely to have been reprinted immediately.
Therefore only the initial print run of about two hundred copies is believed to comprise edition I for this design.
The copy illustrated here is typical of edition I.
98 was printed in at least one later edition. Unfortunately, the few currently documented examples lack the edition-diagnostic watermark evidence.
The scarcity of examples suggests these represent the much smaller edition III printing, but edition II cannot at this point be ruled out.
For 98, potential edition II printings can only be dated approximately from between 1936 and 1941, and potential edition III printings between 1948 and 1955.
98 is one of the very few Rakusan designs for which any printing details exist.
The Foster booklet reports that 98 required 120 printing impressions to complete.
Other Foster Information: 98 is among the most familiar Rakusan designs because of Walter Foster.
In addition to marketing original Rakusan woodblock prints of 98 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 later edition copy of 98 in Foster's personal collection.
One version is a fine art reproduction produced for individual sale, and the other appears as the lower half of page 4 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 98 are actually copies of page 4 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 6.25" x 9"); 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 98 for $25, fine art reproductions for $2, 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.
The upper half of page 4 of the Foster booklet is entirely devoted to instructions on how to copy 98 as a drawing and watercolor painting.
Because Foster could not read Rakusan's Japanese title-captions, he made up ones of his own to use in the booklet. There he called 98 "Blue Birds in Maple Tree".
[For additional general information on Foster, the booklet, or the fine art reproductions, see the Foster article.]
Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum,
is a much-hybridized and selected species of small ornamental tree.
Originally native to Japan, it is now planted widely around the world in many forms and colors.
Rakusan used the species in several prints and paintings at different stages in its growth cycle. Here the maple is shown in flower and with a new growth of leaves, including some newly opened and still red in color.
Ashy Minivet, Pericrocotus divaricatus, 山椒喰, さんしょうくい, サンショウクイ, sanshou-kui , lit. 'prickly-ash eater', is native to Japan. In the title-caption Rakusan used a variant kanji spelling, 山椒喰い, which is today uncommon but has the same reading. 98 shows a mated pair with the female on the left and the male on the right.