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[100 Series Alternates]
The first major series Rakusan produced from his own studio was 楽山花鳥画譜, Rakuzan Kachou Gafu, which is called here the 100 Series. It was intended to be distributed only to subscribers who had paid for the entire series in advance. However, initially slow full subscription sales led Rakusan to begin also offering subscriptions to the 100 Series on a month-by-month payment plan which could be cancelled at any time.
Primarily as an enticement for the monthly payment subscribers to continue, Rakusan decided to include simple prints as advertising previews the month before the planned publication of the final version of each of the designs. Because by this time series publication had already begun, the first ten 100 Series designs do not have corresponding preview prints. Beginning in September 1929 and continuing through February 1931, two preview prints were added to each of the regular installments delivered to all subscribers. The preview prints were all pre-printed within a relatively short period between approximately August 1929 and January 1930. By the time Rakusan had run out of his initial batch of pre-printed preview designs, the 100 Series was selling well, and the practice of sending out preview prints was discontinued. As a result, corresponding preview prints exist only for 100 Series designs 11 through 46.
The models for each of these thirty-six woodblock prints were selected from among the alternative compositions created as preliminary sketches during the initial planning period for the 100 Series. Because Rakusan later destroyed all of his sketchbooks, these prints represent a rare glimpse into how he developed his final versions. Rakusan called these alternate designs 素描, sobyou, literally 'rough sketches'. He did not consider their woodblock prints to be significant artworks in their own right. Therefore he did not include them in his formal inventory numbering, nor did he keep representative demonstration copies in his personal collection. The last handful of copies used as packaging protection for original paintings were donated to the archive in 2005. The original Rakusan numbering for each of the polychrome final version prints has been modified here by the addition of ‘alt’ to indicate its related alternate series preview print. (For ease of comparison, linked illustrations of each of the subsequently produced corresponding 100 Series designs are also shown on this page.)
Each of the 100 Series Alternate designs was printed using only three impressions: the basic shapes in medium gray, the outlines and details in black, and a seal G in dark red. Rakusan printed these preview designs on the same edition I watermark paper used for the polychrome prints in the 100 Series proper. Since these designs were intended as single-use ephemera, they were never reprinted. The alternate designs were distributed in the same delivery envelopes as the final version prints, and like those the alternate designs were originally loose and unfolded.
[Click on the thumbnail to bring up a subpage which includes a larger image of the design, additional details and images, and links to related designs.]
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