This design is the seventh of thirty-six woodblock prints in Rakusan's second main sequence series,
篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen
, lit. 'Koushisei's Print Selection' (usually called here the 36 Series
). Rakusan originally labeled this design number 7. However, after 1936 reprinting two series with duplicated numbering caused some confusion. To avoid further problems Rakusan decided to extend the numbering system from the preceding 100 Series
into the 36 Series
, and this design was relabeled as number 107, the 107th design published in his main sequence. Rakusan occasionally wrote his identification number in pencil on the reverse of the print.
Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings and Morphs:
||+ Seal B
||Morph 107 (a)
||[the first occurrence of seal B in edition I of the main sequence]
||+ Seal B
||Morph 107 (b)
Like most 36 Series designs 107 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy, but there are two color morphs which define the two editions.
[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article.
For edition and dating characteristics applicable to the entire series, see the Editions article.]
The woodblock print of 107 was adapted from 107-0, an actual-size original painting on silk. Because Rakusan intended to retain all of the 36 Series
prototypes in his personal collection, he did not affix a signature or seal, and the silk remained loose and unmounted. The silk was originally a pale cream color, but over time it has significantly yellowed:
|107-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Edition I, Morph 107 (a) (1934-1941): Morph 107 (a) is the original version of 107 and the one which most closely resembles the prototype painting 107-0. In adapting the painting as a woodblock print Rakusan extended the background shading from lower right across the entire lower portion. 107 (a) is the only morph found with presentation sheets (see below), and it is overwhelmingly the version most commonly encountered. 107 (a) was reprinted several times up until the studio closed for World war II. Almost all copies of 107 (a) look very much the same. In this morph the boundary between two colors of blue in the morning glory flowers is sharply demarcated with a dark inner ring and a shaded pair of lighter rings surrounding it. The pink areas of the flowers are more extensive than in 107-0 or 107 (b). As in 107-0, the wasp appears flat with no shading in the even brown and black colors. The first example above is typical of edition I, morph 107 (a).
Edition II, Morph 107 (b) (1948-1955): Copies of morph 107 (b) are very rare, indicating that there was only a single, small, print run of 107 during the postwar reprinting period. Morph 107 (b) is the only version found with the Foster era cursive Rakusan romaji signature. When Rakusan resumed reprinting selected 36 Series designs after the war, he occasionally took the opportunity to refine the printing techniques he had used earlier. For the flowers in 107 (b) Rakusan reversed and softened the earlier color pattern. The outer ring of medium-dark blue now shades almost imperceptibly into a darker blue before blending into the pale blue center. Bokashi shading is also noticeable on the wasp where yellow has been introduced as a third color. The color patternings of the leaves have also been altered and softened, and the use of pink on the flowers again restricted. The second example above shows separate, cropped, images of most of the left and right halves of the same, undivided copy of an edition II, morph 107 (b). Unfortunately, this best currently available illustration is not to the same scale as the first example, and it was photographed under very different conditions. The colors and shadings of the background are actually almost exactly the same in both morphs.
The earliest 36 Series prints were delivered tipped into recessed wells of presentation sheets embossed in their lower margins with the series title.
Because all early edition I prints once had these presentation sheets, a copy which retains its presentation sheet must have been printed during the 1930s.
After his supply of presentation sheets was exhausted, Rakusan distributed subsequently-reprinted copies loose.
A limited number of leftover earlier-printed copies of some designs on presentation sheets were still being distributed shortly after World War II, but by then most designs were only available as loose sheets.
However, absence of presentation sheets is not diagnostic of later printings because many early prints have subsequently been detached from theirs.
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I, Morph 107 (a): Harvard Art Museums (Arthur M. Sackler Museum), Cambridge, MA, USA; (1941.56) [illustrated online].
Edition I, Morph 107 (a): Museum of FIne Arts, Boston, MA, USA; (46.410) [not illustrated online].
The Rakusan project which produced 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen
, resulted in two related series of woodblock prints.
Each print of the 36 Series
is intimately connected to a group of prints with the same subjects in the Fan Series
Together these subject-related prints in the two series constitute a theme.
Each theme typically consists of a quintet of monochrome Fan Series
designs (one design in each of the five fan shapes), plus one polychrome,
design which illustrates the theme subject.
The theme is labeled here by the original Rakusan number of its 36 Series
design followed by the subject.
107 is the 36 Series
design of the 107 Morning Glory
The 107 Morning Glory theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. Four of the five Fan Series designs have seal C which indicates carving dates between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934.
However, the remaining fan design and the 36 Series design 107 have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication. Rakusan arranged the 107 Morning Glory theme in an installment with two other summer subject themes (108 and 109).
The Fan Series and 36 Series prints of the 107 Morning Glory theme were distributed in early 1934 in installment three (of twelve).
The delivery documents for installment three remain to be discovered, but its delivery month was either March, April, or (most likely) May 1934. The individual woodblock prints would have been printed earlier in the same month as their distribution.
At least some of the morning glory designs in this theme were probably adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 27 of the earlier 100 Series.
Japanese Morning Glory, Ipomoea (Parbitis) nil
, 朝顔, あさがお, アサガオ, asagao
, is originally not native to Japan.
However, it was imported from China about 1,200 years ago, and it is now important in Japanese culture.
Today, the species is pan-tropical, easily naturalizes, and its ultimate origins are difficult to sort out.
In Japan morning glories have been extensively hybridized and selected to modify their colors and flower-forms.
Rakusan used several different varieties in his designs. Rakusan had earlier illustrated the same morning glory variety appearing in 107 in 100 Series
design 27 where he called it simply 朝顔, asagao
, 'morning glory', and that usage has been adapted here for the title for both the print of 107 and its theme.
Here the bamboo stake support indicates that the morning glory is growing in a garden setting.
Wasps hornets, and bees share the same general name in Japanese, 蜂, はち, ハチ, hachi. [Rakusan insects in color are usually identifiable at least to the genus level. Identification of this wasp is in process.]