Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
||+ Seal A
[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 41 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 41st 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'.
Rakusan announced the upcoming publication of 41 in the delivery documents for installment twenty which was distributed December 28, 1930. 41alt, a woodblock print of an alternate sketch of the same design subject, was included in installment twenty as a preview advertisement. Printing and publication of the first print run of approximately two hundred copies of 41 was in January 1931 in installment twenty-one (of fifty). (The exact printing and publication dates are unknown since no copies of the installment twenty-one delivery documents have yet been located.) Additional edition I printings may have continued until mid 1933.
The copy illustrated here is typical of edition I.
Rakusan considered 41 to be one of his best designs and included it in at least three formal presentation albums in 1940. No later edition printings of 41 are currently known. Since good quality edition I copies of 41 were still available in 1940, it is likely that an edition II reprinting between then and the closure of the studio would have been unnecessary.
The background of 41 is highly stylized.
The upper portion is a warm, featureless tan, but the ground beneath the tree is shown as an abstract arc colored in rich brown and bright jade green.
The juxtaposition of the green with the pink of the fallen petals makes the colors vibrantly Art Deco.
41 is among the most familiar Rakusan designs because of Walter Foster.
In addition to marketing original Rakusan woodblock prints of 41 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, an edition I copy of 41 in Foster's personal collection.
One version is a fine art reproduction produced for individual sale, and the other appears as page 19 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 41 are actually copies of page 19 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 entire booklet illustration has a yellowish tinge not present in the original.
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 41 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.
Most of these Foster labels are inaccurate at best.
However, here he called 41 "Japanese Paradise Flycatcher and Flowering Red Peach", which except for the order of elements and omission of the season is essentially correct.
[For additional general information on Foster, the booklet, or the fine art reproductions, see the Foster article.]
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; (1951) 51.2478 [not illustrated online].
Edition I: Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; (1990) 90.18.12 [illustrated online].
Scarlet (Red) Flowering Peach, Prunus persica
var., is a popular ornamental plant in Japan.
Its Japanese name, 緋桃, can be read in two different ways: as ひもも, ヒモモ, hi-momo
, or as ひとう, ヒトウ, hitou
; both lit. 'scarlet peach'.
Included in the composition at the bottom, but not mentioned in the title-caption, are slender stalks of an unidentified kind of bamboo.
Some of the leaves appear all or partially brown as though left over from the previous season.
Japanese (Black) Paradise-flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, 三光鳥, さんこうちょう, サンコウチョウ, san-kou-chou, lit. '3-light/ray-bird', is a Japanese native species.
The sexes are similar except that the males have long tail streamers and the females do not.
Here Rakusan has shown the tail of the bird on the right extending out of the frame; so its sex is actually indeterminate.
However, given the season, the implication is of a mated pair, and the bird on the left is unmistakably male.
The likely female bird on the right is carrying a small bundle of fibers (presumably for a nest).