This design is the twenty-sixth 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 26. 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 126, the 126th 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 C [brownish red]
||Morph 126 (a)
||+ Seal C [bright red]
||Morph 126 (b)
[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 126 was adapted from 126-0, 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:
|126-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Like most 36 Series designs 126 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. However, 126 have two differently colored versions, 126 (a) and 126 (b), which serve to distinguish copies from edition I and edition II repectively:
Edition I, Morph 126 (a) (1934-1941): Almost all of the documented copies of 126 are from the original prewar edition I. All edition I copies of 126 look very much alike and are referred to morph 126 (a). In adapting the woodblock print 126 Rakusan simplified the background treatment to an even, pale gray. The seal is a dark brownish red - almost black in appearance. The first example illustrated above is typical of edition I, morph 126 (a).
Edition II, Morph 126 (b) (1948-1955): Copies of morph 126 (b) are very rare, indicating that there was only a single, small, print run of 126 during the postwar reprinting period. All documented copies of morph 126 (b) have the secondarily applied Foster era cursive Rakusan romaji signature. The reds in morph 126 (b) are lighter and brighter than in edition I, including both the flowers and buds as well as in the bright red seal. The branches, foliage, and the body of the bird are paler, but the feet of the bird (formerly a dull pinkish tone) are orange in this version. Rakusan added bokashi shading to the background, especially in the lower right. The second example illustrated above is typical of edition I, morph 126 (b).
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 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.
126 is the 36 Series
design of the 126 Wild Camellia
The 126 Wild Camellia theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. 126 and 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. Despite the early completion of those wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 126 Wild Camellia theme for several months. It was eventually grouped with other winter season themes nearer to the end of the series. However, the other two Fan Series designs have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.
On the Fan Series delivery folio for installment eight on November 22, 1934 Rakusan announced wild camellia designs as due to appear in installment nine in the following month, December 1934. Rakusan used the theme title 籔椿, yabu-tsubaki, 'wild camellia' (lit. 'thicket camellia'), which was also the title of 36 Series design 126 to be published at the same time. However, the delivery documents for installment nine have yet to be located, and it is not known if installment nine was actually distributed on time or was delayed. The publications of installment eight in November 1934 and of installment ten in March 1935 constrain the publication of installment nine to one of the three intervening months, December 1934, January 1935, or February 1935; and indicate that the other two of these months had no deliveries. The woodblock prints for installment nine would have been printed during the same month as their distribution.
Rakusan deliberately positioned 126 immediately after 125, the only other 36 Series design with falling snow.
In order to suggest the gloomy weather of a snowstorm, Rakusan has deliberately shifted many of the colors in 126.
The overall background color is light gray, and the falling snow is a darker shade of gray.
The glossy camellia leaves have been printed as near black instead of the actual dark green.
Use of true white has been reserved for the bird, highlights on the red flower, and speckles of snow on the leaves.
Unlike in 125 the snow was not all supposed to be white, and the colors described for 126 are the original ones.
At least some of the wild camellia designs in this theme were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 43 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).
Japanese Camellia, Camellia japonica
, 椿, つばき, ツバキ, tsubaki
, has been extensively hybridized and selected to modify its flower form, habit, and blooming time.
As the name implies, it is a Japanese native which still grows wild as well as in gardens.
The original form is winter-blooming and often flowers covered in snow.
For 43alt, 43, 126, and the related 36 Series
designs shown below, Rakusan illustrates a small, bell-shaped flower of brilliant red which encloses a brush-like cluster of yellow stamens, which is the most common wild form.
Rakusan calls this variety 籔椿, やぶつばき, ヤブツバキ, yabu-tsubaki
, lit. 'thicket camellia', and it appears in more artworks than any other kind of camellia.
It may also be called 山椿, やまつばき,ヤマツバキ, yama-tsubaki
, lit. 'mountain camellia'.
Neither of these names are varietal names but instead mean 'wild camellia'.
, is also used as a general name for any camellia.
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 116 and 129, which in turn link to their own additional related designs.
Short-tailed Bush Warbler ( or Asian Stubtail), Urosphena (Cettia) squameiceps, 薮雨 ~ 薮鮫, やぶさめ, ヤブサメ, yabu-same, is a Japanese native with variable plumage.
The bird shown in 126 is somewhat stylized and this identification is tentative only.