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(This article is incomplete and will eventually include additional sections.)

Seals

This article presents every seal known to have been used by Rakusan. Also included are seals of other persons occasionally associated with Rakusan artworks or with artworks sometimes attributed to Rakusan. To make referring to the various seals easier, each of the seals have been arbitrarily assigned unique designations based on letters of the alphabet. These same designations are used in all of the research presented on this site.

The seal images are not all shown at the same scale. Seals on black backgrounds appear as monochrome negative versions of the same seal on light or polychrome backgrounds. Both of these versions are here considered to be the same basic seal. The same polychrome seals can vary in hue from vermilion red to brown depending on the particular design, but other colors are found on a very few specific designs. Further discussion of the relative sizes, distributions, and other characteristics of each seal will eventually appear in the text section immediately following this table.


RAKUSAN SEALS


A

A

B

B

B2

C

C

C

W


D

E

F

G


H

H

[I]

I

J

K

L

M

N

O

P

Q

Q

[R]

R

S

T

U

V

W (see after C)

X

X

Y

Y

Z

AA

BB

SEALS OF RAKUSAN PRINT COLLECTORS

These seals have nothing to do with Rakusan and were applied by later owners of the prints to which they were applied. If anyone knows who these collectors were, or anything about their collections, please contact us.

Collector 1

Collector 2

Collector 3

Collector 4

DOUBTFUL ATTRIBUTIONS: 洋草花譜 You Souka Fu Western Flowers Series

These three seals sometimes appear on different copies of the same designs in this series - which makes correct attribution impossible without additional as yet unavailable information. The purported 'Rakusan' seal is anomalous in that it is the only one in which any of his names read left-to-right. The kanji in all undisputed Rakusan seals read right-to-left and/or top-to-bottom.

'Rakusan'

'So-un'

'Takemura' [for 'Hodo']

DISCUSSION:

Seals are classified as primary when they are produced as part of the production process for the artwork, and secondary when they are applied later, often when the artwork is distributed. Some copies may have both primary and secondary seals.

Rakusan used at least one of his personal seals as a mark of authorship and approval on every artwork he distributed. The only artworks which do not have seals are ones which he retained in his personal possession. Therefore if one encounters a purported 'Rakusan' artwork which does not have a seal, that is immediate grounds for concern about attribution or authenticity. Rakusan frequently used the same seal design for different purposes and printed the seal using different methods. On woodblock prints the primary Rakusan seals (and any signatures) are almost always also woodblock printed. He carved a new version of the primary seal into the wooden block for each different design. Therefore, each of these seals varies at least slightly from design to design, even when carved to the same pattern. Rakusan also carved his own stamp seals which he applied as primary seals to original artworks and correspondence, and as secondary seals to woodblock prints. Variations based on the amount of ink applied to the stamp seal also are to be expected.

Rakusan seal usage can be classified into two types: major and minor. Rakusan tended to use the same seal on all new artworks produced during specific periods of time. The seal characteristically used on the large majority of the artworks during a particular time is defined as a major seal and gives its name to that seal use period. Rare, exceptional use of a different seal during a major seal use period marks that seal as a minor seal. (For example, during the last half of the 100 Series all but one of the prints appeared with seal A, the exception was one print with seal H. Therefore, seal H is identified as a minor seal used during the Seal A Period when seal A was the major seal used on new artworks.)

It is important to recognize that on woodblock prints the seal used necessarily reflects the period during which the wooden blocks containing the seal were carved. Of course many Rakusan prints ended up being carved, printed, published and distributed - all within a short time. However, technical problems and other order changes meant that sometimes prints were published significantly later than when their blocks were carved. For example, the Fan Series and 36 Series often had earlier-carved designs held over until all of the designs in their themes or installments were ready to publish. This meant that themes may contain prints from up to four different seal use periods. Because some designs were published and circulated before other designs carved up to several months earlier, absolute dating of seal use periods cannot rely solely on the dates of publication for the designs bearing a particular seal.

THE INDIVIDUAL SEALS:

Seal A: The first documented use of seal A is on 100 Series design 15 first published in December 1929, and the last documented use is on Fan Series design 110-3 published in June 1934. All examples of seal A on new woodblock print designs are believed to have been carved within the Seal A Period which extended from late 1929 through late 1933. Seal A is also found on three undated paintings presumably created during this same period. Seal A is the predominate seal in edition I of the 100 Series (81 of 100 total designs), and occurs also in the early designs of the Fan Series (30 of 180) and edition I of the 36 Series (6 of 36). Seal A was also used on a few edition II reprints of 100 Series designs subsequent to the Seal A period. Seal A is only known as a primary seal.

Seal B: The first documented uses of seal B are on Fan Series design 107-3 and 36 Series design 107, both of which were first published in the same month in early 1934 [March-May]. The last documented use on a new design is on 36 Series design 136 which was first published in March 1935 (or slightly later). Seal B is the predominate seal in edition I of the 36 Series (21 of 36 total designs), and occurs also in the later designs of the Fan Series (36 of 180). All examples of seal B on woodblock prints are believed to have been carved within the Seal B Period which extended from mid 1934 through the final closure of the Rakusan studio in 1955. Seal B is the most used seal on original paintings which were created during this period. Seal B is also used on most later edition 100 Series reprints (including all edition III examples) and all later edition 36 Series reprints. Seal B almost exclusively occurs as a primary seal, but a very few examples of secondary use are also documented.

[To be continued....]


© 2005, © 2016 (with interim revisions 2006, 2011, 2015) Dr Michael J P Nichols