Currently Documented Edition Watermark, Signature, and Seal Markings:
||Edition I watermark
||+ Seal A
||Edition II watermark
||+ Seal F
||Edition II watermark
||+ Seal A
||+ Rakusan (romaji cursive signature)*
||Edition III watermark
||+ Seal B
||+ Rakusan (romaji cursive signature)*
* Currently, all documented edition III copies which were circulated during Rakusan's lifetime also have a Foster era Rakusan romaji cursive signature not present on copies from the other editions. The only currently known edition III copy without such a signature is an edition III-a copy from the family estate holdings.
[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 67 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 67th 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'. 67 is among the most popular, and therefore most reprinted, Rakusan designs. It is one of the very few designs in this series which have at least four different versions distinguished both by different suites of edition markings and also by distinctive color and technique modifications.
Edition I: Edition I of 67 is the largest of the editions and comprises half of all documented copies of 67. Initial edition I publication of 67 was in February 1932 (or perhaps slightly later), and it was delivered in installment thirty-four (of fifty). 67 apparently sold well from the start since it needed to be reprinted at least once before the series was completed in mid 1933, closing out edition I. It is likely that each of these near identical print runs had about two hundred copies.
The edition I background is a warm tan printed in a relatively opaque pigment. Similar backgrounds were used on many designs in the two main sequence series through at least 1935. However, by the later edition reprintings these backgrounds are replaced by thinner and more translucent pigments with cooler and less saturated tan colors. The first printing impression of a 100 Series design is the key block which outlines the design in black or dark gray ink. The key block for 67 includes a small branch or stem extending to the right from behind the throat of the middle bird. It might have originally been intended to have a blossom and/or leaves at the end, but it was subsequently overprinted by the background color. In edition I this feature is all but invisible, but in later editions it clearly shows through the thinner inks.
In edition I the backs of the birds are lime green, and the lowest bird typically has pink bokashi shading only on the side shown on the left (actually the bird's right flank). Although the image illustrated above is from edition I, it is currently the only documented copy with pink bokashi on both flanks of that bird. The different edition I copy illustrated below is more typical in that respect. In all later edition copies the backs of the birds are dark, brownish-olive green, and the lowest bird has pink bokashi shading in a triangle under the tail with little or none on the flanks, as shown in the illustrations below.
Edition II: Edition II of 67 is also relatively well represented and comprises a quarter of all documented copies of 67. These were reprinted between 1936 and 1941. The edition II background color is similar to that of edition I, but it is usually a thinner ink which tends to photograph with a slightly pinker tinge. As noted, the backs of the birds are a darker, duller color in all of the later editions.
Rakusan typically selected his finest copies for important commissions or sales, and the inclusion of an edition II copy of 67 in a presentation album from August 1941 is a certain indication of his approval. His ultimate personal display copy is also from edition II. Secondary city-name stamps on some individual reprints show that edition II copies were still available for planned distribution after World War II circa 1947.
Edition III: 67 is unusual in having two reprinted versions with different attribution markings within edition III, edition III-a (with seal A) and edition III-b (with seal B). Together both edition III versions comprise less than a quarter of all documented copies of 67. With one exception (see below) all edition III copies of 67 have the Foster cursive Rakusan signatures indicating planned Walter Foster sales after 1948.
Edition III-a: However it is described, edition III-a is in some way anomalous. Most importantly, edition III-a of 67 was reprinted on leftover stocks of edition II watermark paper which makes it the only known design printed in edition III which did not use edition III watermark paper. However, the characteristics and the temporal span of distribution of edition II copies of 67 from the mid 1930s to after World War II leaves no time for the edition III-a version to have been produced earlier. Edition III-a of 67 is also the only known example of the reuse of a primarily edition I signature and seal combination in edition III. Although the signature and seal markings are the same in edition I and edition III-a of 67, even when the criterial watermarks are not visible, the color differences in the birds and the background always serve to distinguish the two. The edition III-a background is a very thin and pale tan which photographs with a greenish tinge. The edition III-a copy illustrated below is of the last remaining undistributed extra copy of 67 gifted from the artist's collection in 2005, which exceptionally has no cursive Rakusan signature.
Edition III-b: In edition III-b of 67 Rakusan returned to a darker tan background and has overprinted a band of greenish bokashi along the bottom margin. In addition pale greens replace the rusty orange color used extensively in the new buds and foliage in all of the earlier versions. The image of the edition III-b copy illustrated below is not good quality, and it is unclear if the other colors are true or faded. Very, very few copies of edition III-b are known, indicating that only a single, smaller, print run was ever produced, probably toward the end of the period between 1948 and 1955.
67 (edition I)
67 (edition II)
67 (edition III-a)
67 (edition III-b)
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; (1952) 52.502 [not illustrated online].
Edition I: Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; (1990) 90.18.11 [illustrated online].
Edition II: Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA; (1942.44.c); from an August 1941 presentation album [illustrated online].
Edition II: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; (1951) 51.1741 [not illustrated online]. [Note that this copy reportedly also has a secondary seal C (position unspecified).]
Edition II: San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California, USA; (1981) 1981.21.2 [illustrated online].
In Japanese the general name for any cherry is 桜 (or older style 櫻), さくら, サクラ, sakura
Rakusan described the cherry variety in 67 as しだれ桜 , shidare-zakura
, lit. 'weeping (pendulous) cherry' which today is popularly applied to any cherry with a weeping habit.
As with many old cherry cultivars the species identifications of Japanese Weeping Cherry, 枝垂桜, (枝)垂れ桜, しだれ桜, しだれざくら, シダレザクラ, shidare-zakura
, is open to dispute.
The variety originated in Japan and is unknown in the wild.
In the West weeping cherry is often described as Prunus x subhirtella
(a hybrid between P. incisa
and P. spachiana
Because that cross includes non-weeping cultivars, the varietal name pendula
is frequently added to describe the selected weeping forms.
Although Rakusan illustrates a pink semi-double form, the blossoms of weeping cherry cultivars vary from white to pink and single to fully double.
Sometimes weeping cherry is considered a form of Prunus spachiana
Although it can be difficult to determine the species of flowering fruit trees in art, especially blooming cherries vesus plums, Rakusan has made his depictions relatively easy to distinguish. His cherries typically show smooth bark and bronzy new foliage, and his plums show rough bark and green new foliage. Furthermore, Rakusan has included title-captions which indicate the intended species definitively. Because these woodblock-printed title-captions were originally written in Rakusan's own rather fluid calligraphic style, some of his kanji can be difficult to decipher without reference to other samples of his handwriting. Fortunately, the 100 Series provides several other examples for comparison. Indisputable cherries appear in designs 3, 81, and 88 whose title-captions render 桜 'cherry' in precisely the same way as it is written in 67. In contrast the title-captions for 100 Series plum designs show two different calligraphic renderings of 梅 'plum'. In designs 4 and 63 the character is very close to the printed form of the kanji, but in designs 22 and 89 it is very fluidly interpreted in a different cursive calligraphic style.
Japanese White-eye, Zosterops japonicus, is now usually called 目白 (formerly also 眼白), めじろ, メジロ, mejiro, lit. 'white eye'. However, in the title-caption for 67 Rakusan uses a name which is today much less common, 繡眼児, しゅうがんじ, シュウガンジ, shuuganji, literally 'embroidered-eye baby'.
These familiar native birds are fond of overripe and fermenting fruit; and when they become intoxicated, they are easily captured and kept as pets. Rakusan portrayed these active little birds in several different designs.