Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
||Edition I watermark
||+ Seal A
||Edition II watermark
||+ 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 23 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 23rd 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'.
23alt, a woodblock print of an alternate sketch of the same design subject was issued the month before the initial printing of 23 as a preview advertisement (see Related Designs below).
Edition I: The first print run of about two hundred copies of 23 was completed and the design waspublished in April 1930 in installment twelve (of fifty).
(The exact printing and publication days are unknown since no copies of the installment twelve delivery documents have yet been located.) Relatively few copies of 23 from any edition have been documented, and it is possible that all edition I copies of 23 come from that initial printing. If another edition I printing of 23 was made, it would have been from before mid 1933 when the series was completed and edition I printings ceased. More than two thirds of the documented copies of 23 come from edition I printings, including the different example copies illustrated above and below left.
23 is one of the very few Rakusan designs for which any printing details exist.
The Foster booklet reports that 23 required 220 printing impressions to complete.
Later Edition: 23 was reprinted in a single, small, later edition print run. Use of edition II watermark paper suggests a possible reprinting toward the end of the period between 1936 and 1941, but several edition III reprintings early in the period between 1948 and 1955 used leftover edition II watermark paper. However, all currently documented copies from this later edition reprinting have Foster era cursive Rakusan romaji signatures. This marking, together with the small print run, also suggest a postwar edition III reprinting. Less than one third of the documented copies of 23 are from this later edition printing, including the one illustrated at right below.
|23 (edition I)
||23 (later edition)
Later edition copies of 23 closely resemble those from edition I, but there are some color differences including the use of darker blues in the later edition. The backgrounds are more closely similar than they appear in these examples. Rakusan also shifted the different later edition signature and seal combination down and to the right.
Other Foster Information: 23 is among the most familiar Rakusan designs because of Walter Foster.
In addition to marketing original Rakusan woodblock prints of 23 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 23 in Foster's personal collection.
One version is a fine art reproduction produced for individual sale, and the other appears as page 21 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 23 are actually copies of page 21 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.
The booklet illustration has an overall yellowish tinge, and the original background is a pale, creamy beige not yellow.
Both reproduction versions are of similar size (listed as 9" x 12"); 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 23 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 23 "Irises".
[For additional general information on Foster, the booklet, or the fine art reproductions, see the Foster article.]
Rabbitear (Water) Iris, Iris laevigata
, 杜若, 燕子(花), かきつばた, カキツバ, kakitsubata
, has been extensively hybridized and selected.
However, the original blue-purple form shown in 23 still grows wild as well as in garden ponds.
(Common) Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, 鷭, ばん, バン, ban, 'moorhen', is a common resident in wet places in Japan.
In the title-caption for 23 Rakusan adds the descriptor 黒, kuro(i), 'black, dark'.