SP1 (basic woodblock print)

Temporary Number



Primary Woodblock-Printed Signature and Seal Markings [at upper left on all copies]:
楽山 Raku-zan + Seal B

Secondary Name and Address Markings [optionally handwritten in the lower portion of the print, but almost always present on dedication copies]:
cursive romaji signature: Rakusan Tsuchiya.
cursive romaji address: 56 Kitamachi-Komatsubara Kyoto.
[name may appear before or after address; address may be omitted; internal punctuation varies]

Secondary Signature and Seal Markings [one set from among the following at lower right on each dedication copy]:
楽山 Raku-zan + Seal B [in addition to the similar primary marking found on all copies]
楽山 Raku-zan + Seal Q
楽山生 Raku-zan Sei + Seal Q
楽山生 Raku-zan Sei + Seal T
楽山 Raku-zan + Seal T

[For illustration of seals, see the Seals article.]

Design History:
The woodblock print SP1 is by far the most commonly encountered of all the souvenir prints. Many hundreds of copies were printed - numbers comparable to the most numerous prints in the major series. It was adapted from an original painting of the same size whose current location is unknown. Like most of the other souvenir prints, SP1 was deliberately designed without a printed background color or marginal lines. This was done to provide open, unprinted areas to accommodate later secondary text such as dedications. All known copies of SP1 are created from the simple woodblock print illustrated above. Although it is often mistaken for an original painting, it is in fact a woodblock print. SP1 was most probably created in early 1947 and first distributed later that year.

The SP1 design was actually printed (exclusive of the signature and seal) using only four color-impressions: black or very dark gray (variable on same print), medium gray, green, and white. All of the inks used were thin, and earlier impressions may be seen through the translucent later ones. As in the example above, toning of the paper may modify the look of some of the pigments, and the medium gray may appear to be brown since the discoloration of the paper shows through. Otherwise all copies of SP1 once looked much like this copy, and there are no different-color morphs of this design.

Unfortunately, during the period immediately after World War II when SP1 was printed, Rakusan was forced to use a more readily available lead-based white ink which was not reliably colorfast. On some copies of SP1 (not illustrated) this white pigment has chemically altered in color. This chemical reaction is unpredictable in that it can affect all or only a portion of the areas originally printed in white. The alteration in color is also variable. In an intermediate stage a rusty-ochre or orange color may result, or it can go directly from white to a lead-gray color. Comparison of copies variously affected by this chemical reaction may give the mistaken impression that additional ink colors have been used.

As in SP1, Rakusan giga (cartoon) designs occasionally do not maintain a uniform scale throughout. The frog on the left is smoking a miniaturized kiseru pipe and is holding a miniaturized traditional pipe-case, ojime, and tobacco-pouch combination. However, the dancing frog on the right is holding a grass-stem 'spear' in scale for a natural-sized frog. This composition is a much simplified adaptation of a large original painting from 1934-1935 depicting junior-grade samurai as giga frogs (not yet illustrated).

SP1 is most often seen with a personal dedication which wraps around the top and right of the basic design. These dedications always accompany a secondary handwritten Rakusan name (and usually also a studio address) in cursive romaji. They also always include a secondary handwritten kanji signature and hand-applied seal (see tables above). These dedications are often explicitly dated, with most dates falling in 1947 or 1948, but with a few as late as 1956. It is believed all similar but undated dedications come from the early portion of that period:

SP1 (with additional secondary dedication, signature and seal, and romanji name and address)

Rakusan dedicating a copy of SP1 at his desk in the lobby of the Kyoto Hotel 1947-1948

The secondary handwritten name and address are in romaji script in an informal cursive hand. Rakusan typically wrote this sort of romaji text with a dry brush using dilute gray or black sumi ink, but sometimes he used a plain lead pencil. Adding cursive romaji signatures and addresses allowed Rakusan to use woodblock prints essentially as fancy business cards. As noted above, the name can come before or after the address, and it is always the complete name Rakusan Tsuchiya. (This is a somewhat different usage from other cursive romaji signatures intended primarily as artwork signatures; and where either Rakusan or Rakusan Tsuchiya may be used, and an address is never included.)

A limited number of copies were distributed into the early and middle 1950s. However, these were apparently leftover copies and did not represent later reprintings. A few copies were distributed exactly as first printed with only the woodblock-printed primary markings and no secondary emendations at all. Other distributed copies have only the romaji name and address text added. Rakusan also used some of the latter as advertising posters with various other text:

SP1 (with handwritten advertising text and cursive romaji name and address)

Species Illustrated:
Although color-modified, stylized, and rendered as giga (cartoons), the frogs can be identified as Japanese Brown Frog, Rana japonica, ニホンアカガエル, 日本赤蛙, nihon aka-gaeru, lit. 'Japanese red frog'. Rakusan often illustrated these giga frogs as green or orange rather than their natural brownish color.

Related Designs:
Other designs with giga frogs:
WC4-a WC4-b