Edition I
Edition II (not illustrated)

寒菊に水仙 [title from folio]

kankiku ni suisen

Winter Chrysanthemum and Narcissus


Original Number / 原番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

118 Winter Chrysanthemum and Narcissus Theme
118 寒菊に水仙(カンキクにスイセン)画題

Identification Notes:
This design is the eighteenth 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 18. 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 118, the 118th 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:
Edition I: 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal C
Edition II: 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal 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.]

Print History:
The woodblock print of 118 was adapted from 118-0, 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:
118-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)

Edition I (1934-1941): Like most 36 Series designs 118 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Almost all documented copies of 118 look very much alike, are often associated with presentation sheets (see below), and can be referred to the original edition I printings. The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I (except there is slight chemical alteration to the edges of the yellows in the top left corner.)

Edition II (1948-1955): The copy of 118 in Rakusan's personal 36 Series demonstration set has a secondary Rakusan cursive signature. (Not illustrated.) This association probably indicates that 118 has an edition II form. The scarcity of all edition II copies of suggests that only a single print run of each was ever made sometime during the postwar edition II printing period. Documentation is very limited, and it remains unclear if this possible edition II of 118 can also be identified as a different color and technique morph.

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. However, because many early prints have subsequently been detached from their presentation sheets, absence of a presentation sheet is not in itself diagnostic of a later printing. Some leftover earlier-printed copies on presentation sheets of 118 and a few other designs were still being distributed for a few years shortly after World War II, when by then most designs in this series were only available as loose sheets.

Theme History:
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 36 Series 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. 118 is the 36 Series design of the 118 Winter Chrysanthemum and Narcissus theme.

Apparently, Rakusan had initially intended to have a separate chrysanthemum theme. In June 1934 the delivery documents for Fan Series installment four included a preview announcement of a theme entitled 菊, kiku, 'chrysanthemum', to appear the following month as theme 113. Although installment five was expected in July 1934, between installments four and six a monthly delivery was skipped. It is possible that problems with this theme contributed to (or were caught up in) that delay. In any event when installment five appeared in either July or August 1934, another theme had been substituted as 113. Chrysanthemum designs eventually appeared in these series only as part of a compound theme 118 Winter Chrysanthemum and Narcissus in installment six with two other winter themes.

The 118 Winter Chrysanthemum and Narcissus theme is an entirely regular theme represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. All of the designs in this theme (including the 36 Series design 118) have seal C which indicates carving dates between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934.

The Fan Series designs of the 118 Winter Chrysanthemum and Narcissus theme were printed during September 1934 and were distributed September 15, 1934 as installment six (of twelve). On the documents attached to the delivery folio envelope Rakusan used the theme subject title 寒菊に水仙, kankiku ni suisen, 'winter chrysanthemum and narcissus', which is also the original title of 36 Series design 118 published at the same time.

Since the 118 Winter Chrysanthemum and Narcissus theme has a compound subject, both thematic elements appear in its 36 Series design 118. The only other design with both is Fan Series design 118-5. However, individual Fan Series designs may also only have one subject or the other. Here only winter chrysanthemum (with grass and wagtail) is in 118-3; and only narcissus are in 118-1, 118-2, and 118-4. (The grass and the wagtail in 118-3 are the sole non-thematic embellishments in this theme.)

Although fancy hybrid chrysanthemums were previously used in design 38 in the earlier 100 Series (see below), there is no evidence that the winter chysanthemum of this theme would have been included in sketches for that earlier design. However, paintings using this variety do appear among Rakusan's artworks. This theme contains the only examples of narcissus Rakusan is known to have used. The pairing of the winter chrysanthemum and narcissus is a traditional Japanese symbol of the winter season.

The composition of 118 includes two blooming and budded sprays of yellow winter chrysanthemums (presumably from a single plant) in front of a narcissus with a single bloom stalk with white and yellow flowers. The chrysanthemum foliage is autumn colored, indicating a cold season. Although the original painting 118-0 has an unpainted plain silk background, in adapting the woodblock print of 118 Rakusan chose instead to color the background a rich tan-yellow.

Unfortunately, the lead white pigment Rakusan used is subject to chemical alteration both when used in white ink and when mixed with other colors. Due to exposure to atmospheric pollution, those printed areas may show tinges of orange or dull gray discoloration. Sections closest to the margins are especially suscepible to this damage. In the edition I example illustrated above the two yellow flowers in the top left show a fringe of gray discoloration closest to the corner. In a perfect copy these would be the same pure yellows of the lower blossoms. Other copies also show the same alteration over more areas of the print including on the white flowers at upper right.

Species Illustrated:
Winter Chrysanthemum (Chinese Aster), Chrysanthemum indicum, 寒菊, かんぎく, カンキク, kan-kiku, lit. 'winter chysanthemum', is an old, cold-hardy, variety. The general name used for all chrysanthemums is 菊, きく, キク, kiku. Today, most garden chrysanthemums are considered forms of Chrysanthemum x morifolium, (C. x grandiflorum), which is derived from C. indicum and related species.

Currently, the general name for any plant of the genus Narcissus (including all daffodils, jonquils, and narcissus) is 水仙, すいせん, ズイセン, sui-sen, lit. 'water-hermit'. As Rakusan intended for 118, this general name is especially implies Paperwhite Narcissus, Narcissus tazetta var. chinensis, which can be also called 日本水仙, にほんすいせん, ニホンズイセン, nihon-suisen, lit. 'Japanese narcissus'. Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs are often used for forcing winter blooms indoors and freely naturalize when planted in gardens.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 118 Winter Chrysanthemum and Narcissus theme:
118-1 118-2 118-3 118-4 118-5

Other designs with different varieties of chrysanthemums:
38alt 38