This design is the twentieth 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 20. 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 120, the 120th 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:
||+ 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.]
The woodblock print of 120 was adapted from 120-0, 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:
|120-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Edition I (1934-1941): Like most 36 Series designs 120 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Because all documented copies of 120 look very much alike, and are often associated with presentation sheets (see below), they are all referred to the original edition I printings. There is currently no evidence for any other versions of 120.
The example above has a later-added secondary city-name stamp at upper right, but it is otherwise a typical edition I copy.
The color palette of 120 is unusual for the 36 Series in that so few colors are represented; primarily grays with yellow, white, and a few pale green accents. The pale green is often actually present but invisible in photographs. 120 is one of a cluster of designs printed in late 1934 which have been woodblock printed on top of a special surface sizing. This coating covers the entire front face of the paper but is absent on the reverse face. It is today a pale tan which without reference to the original paper surface would likely go unnoticed.
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.
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 normally 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.
120 is the 36 Series
design of the 120 Tea Flower
The Fan Series delivery documents for installment six in September 1934 announced that tea flower designs would be published the following month. Those for installment seven confirm that the Fan Series of the 120 Tea Flower theme were printed during October 1934 and distributed October 15, 1934 as part of installment seven (of twelve). On both sets of delivery documents Rakusan used the theme subject title 茶の花, cha no hana, 'tea flower' which is the original title of 36 Series design 120 published at the same time.
All three themes 119, 120, 121 of installment seven have irregular numbers of Fan Series designs. As a result of a late decision to merge two incomplete themes, Rakusan was left with eight Fan Series designs in theme 121. Making the installment quota of fifteen designs in three themes meant shorting the other two themes in installment seven. Normally Rakusan would have infilled the missing Fan Series designs in all four original themes with seal B designs just before publication. However, the solution he adopted here meant that no Fan Series infilling was necessary.
The 120 Tea Flower theme has the fewest number of individual designs of any theme. Its three Fan Series designs are two short of the normal quintet, and the theme is lacking fan shapes 1 and 2. The 36 Series design 120 and two of the three Fan Series designs in the 120 Tea Flower theme have seal C which indicates carving dates between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934. The remaining Fan Series design is the only known example of seal I. Here seal I is interpreted as a (perhaps accidental) variant of seal H which is a minor seal during the seal A period and would have been carved earlier during the third quarter of 1933.
It is probable that 120 was adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s for design 61 of the earlier 100 Series (see below).
Tea, Camellia (Thea) sinensis
, 茶, cha
, is an originally exotic shrub which is now a common agricultural crop in Japan.
Its leaves are harvested to make various kinds of tea.
The closely trimmed plants are often supported by bamboo stakes as shown in 61.
Tea plants typically flower in winter.