This design is the sixteenth 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 16. 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 116, the 116th 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 116 (a)
||+ Seal B
||Morph 116 (b)
||+ Seal B
||Morph 116 (c)
[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 116 was adapted from116-0, 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:
|116-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Like most 36 Series designs 116 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. However, each copy of 116 can be assigned to one of three distinct color morphs, 116 (a) and 116 (b) in edition I and 116 (c) in edition II. Both edition I morphs occur with presentation sheets (see below), and although it is not known for certain, the greater numbers of 116 (a) suggest it may be the earlier version. All three morphs can be quickly identified from the appearance of the camellia bud at lower right which is different in each version.
The original painting 116-0 has an uncolored background and shows the color of the unpainted silk. In adapting the woodblock print of 116 Rakusan chose instead to print the backgrounds of all three versions in similar warm, pale beiges. Unfortunately, the example images above were taken with different equipment at different times, and the actual background colors are closer in hue than they appear here. However, the differences in the colors of the various greens are accurately portrayed.
Edition I, Morph 116 (a) (1934-1941): Nearly two thirds of the documented examples of 116 are of morph 116 (a) which has fewer saturated hues than morph 116 (b). A pale, bluish jade-green color is used for the centers of the flowers and for many of the leaves and bud calyces. The branches and stems (especially those of the winterberry) are grayish with little brown. The dead winterberry leaf at upper left center is a beige similar to the overall background. The diagnostic bud at lower right is medium pink with some shading but no darker highlight. The first example at top is typical of edition I, morph 116 (a).
Edition I, Morph 116 (b) (1934-1941): About a third of the documented examples of 116 are of morph 116 (b). A vivid yellow-green color was used for the centers of the flowers and for many of the leaves and buds. Unfortunately, this pigment is subject to sun-fading, and on some damaged copies this distinctive color may be lost. The branches and stems are various shades of browns. The dead winterberry leaf at upper left center is a beige similar to the overall background. The diagnostic bud at lower right has a sharply demarcated dark pink triangular highlight. The second example at top is typical of edition I, morph 116 (b).
Edition II, Morph 116 (c) (1948-1955): Morph 116 (c) is very rare, suggesting that it only had a single, small, print run sometime during the edition II period. All of the documented copies of 116 (c) have the Foster era cursive Rakusan romaji signature. A pale, bluish jade-green color is used for most of the centers of the flowers and the leaves and buds, but some also have highlights in a bright yellow-green. The branches and stems are mostly gray with much less brown than in the prewar versions, and there is yellow-green shading on some of the larger camellia branches. The dead winterberry leaf at upper left center is orange. The diagnostic bud at lower right has a dark pink highlight whose edge has been blurred enough that it no longer appears perfectly triangular. The third examples at top are detail images from a typical copy of edition I, morph 116 (c), but unfortunately the best available images cannot be shown at the same scale as that of the other examples.
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. Both morph 116 (a) and morph 116 (b) have been documented with presentation sheets.
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.
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 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.
116 is the 36 Series
design of the 116 Sasanqua Camellia and Winterberry
The 116 Sasanqua Camellia and Winterberry theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. Three 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 36 Series design 116 and the other two Fan Series designs have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.
The Fan Series designs of the 116 Sasanqua Camellia and Winterberry theme were printed during September 1934 and were distributed September 15, 1934 as installment six (of twelve). On the Fan Series delivery documents Rakusan used the theme subject title 山茶花に梅もどき, sazanka ni umemodoki, 'sasanqua camellia and winterberry' which is actually the title of 36 Series design 116 published at the same time.
The 116 Sasanqua Camellia and Winterberry theme is the second of several compound-subject themes.
Both thematic elements of a compound theme always appear in its 36 Series design.
However, the individual Fan Series designs may have both, or one, or the other.
Here, 116 is the only design in the theme which includes both subjects together in the same composition. 116-1, 116-3, and 116-4 have sasanqua camellia (and not winterberry); and 116-2 and 116-5 have winterberry (and not sasanqua camellia).
Some of the sasanqua camellia and winterberry designs were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s for sasanqua camellia design 5 and for winterberry design 24 of the earlier 100 Series.
116 is especially close to 5 since both designs include the not only the same variety of camellia but also has flowers in the same colors.
Sasanqua Camellia, Camellia sasanqua
, is a winter-blooming species of camellia native to Japan which has been extensively selected and hybridized for color and for flower form.
In Japanese it does not use the regular name for other camellias but has its own name, 山茶花, さざんか, サザンカ, sazanka
This Japanese name is the source of both the Latin species name and the English name, sasanqua
The form Rakusan selected for 5, 116, 116-1, 116-3, and 116-4, is a medium-sized, open flower of pink-blushed white, a type which is often informally called 'Apple Blossom' in English.
Although he had access to many varieties of camellias, Rakusan depicted only three different kinds in his woodblock prints, and examples each appear in the 36 Series.
The other two kinds of Rakusan camellias are at numbers 126 and 129, which in turn link to their own additional related designs.
Japanese Winterberry, Ilex serrata var. sieboldii, 梅擬, うめもどき, ウメモドキ, ume-modoki, lit. 'pseudo-plum', is a kind of deciduous native holly.
In the title-caption for 24 Rakusan uses the descriptor 大粒, oo-tsubu, lit. 'large-berry', apparently with the intention of indicating a kind of winterberry.
That varietal name is not in current usage and the illustration is consistent with the usual subspecies.