Edition I

[improvised title]


suifuyou ni kawasemi

Changeable Rosemallow and Kingfisher


Original Number / 原番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

132 Changeable Rosemallow Theme

Identification Notes:
This design is the thirty-second 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 32. 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 132, the 132nd 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

[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 132 was adapted from 132-0, 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:
132-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)

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.

Edition I (1935-1941): Like most 36 Series designs 132 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Although all documented copies of 132 look much alike and can be referred to edition I, even in early copies associated with presentation sheets, close comparison reveals subtle differences. Most noticeable are variations in the extent and darkness of the light gray bokashi of the background. Unfortunately, the condition of many of the more divergent copies is suspect, and it has not yet been possible to use these individual differences to distinguish consistent color morphs. A few copies with possibly altered darker colors and associated with secondary city-name stamps suggest at least a separate later print run. With additional copies (and perhaps forensic studies) it may be possible to further refine these descriptions. There is currently no evidence for any edition II versions of 132. The copy illustrated above is typical of an unaltered early printing of edition I with a presentation sheet.

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. 132 is the 36 Series design of the 132 Changeable Rosemallow theme.

The 132 Changeable Rosemallow theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. 132 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. However, the remaining two Fan Series designs have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication. The 132 Changeable Rosemallow theme was eventually grouped with other summer season themes near the end of the series. Rakusan deliberately repositioned 132 immediately after 131, the only other 36 Series design with falling rain. As in 131, the rain and water on the leaves are printed in silvery ink.

The Fan Series prints of the 132 Changeable Rosemallow theme were distributed in early 1935 in installment eleven (of twelve), but the delivery documents for installment eleven remain to be discovered. The series as originally announced would have seen this installment published in November 1934. However, with documented delays the earliest month it could actually have been delivered is April 1935, and it may well have been even further delayed. The lack of delivery documents means that what Rakusan originally called this theme and titled 36 Series design 132 is unknown.

The designs of the 132 Changeable Rosemallow theme (and of the immediately following 133 Clematis theme) look very different from others in this series. These two themes include most of the examples in this project where Rakusan openly experimented with mining an external source for his designs. The majority of the designs in each of these two themes were taken directly from ones found in the Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Painting, 十竹斎書画譜, Jitchikusai Shogafu, a very famous and influential design book (here abbreviated TBS). First produced in China in the 17th century, TBS has been reproduced and reprinted in both China and Japan many times since. Rakusan would likely have used one of the later Japanese translations. In homage to this very well known source, Rakusan presented his Fan Series designs of these two themes in the original TBS style rather than in his own. (This experiment also included a scattering of additional designs in other themes. An article exploring all of Rakusan's adaptations from TBS is in preparation.)

In the 132 Changeable Rosemallow theme, four of the five Fan Series designs are taken directly from TBS, and the other is an original design in the TBS style. However, the 36 Series design 132 is entirely a Rakusan original composition in his own style and only the subjects are borrowed. The combination of kingfisher and changeable rosemallow in 132 was probably suggested by 132-2, one of the designs from TBS. The positioning of the bird on a bamboo stake over the water indicates a garden setting.

Species Illustrated:
Changeable Rosemallow, Hibiscus mutabilis, 酔芙蓉, すいふよう, スイフヨウ, sui-fuyou, is a distinctive shrub whose flowers open white and change to pink and then rose as the blossoms age. 酔, すい, スイ, sui, here means ‘intoxicated’; presumably for the gradual reddening of the flower. All of the examples in the 132 Changeable Rosemallow theme, including 132, show fully double flowers, but single flowers also occur. It was often grown in gardens in the southern United States where it received many of its English common names including also Confederate Rose, Cotton Rosemallow, and Flowering Cotton. (The cotton plant grown commercially for fiber is a related species.)

Common (River) Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, 翡翠, 川蝉, かわせみ, カワセミ kawa-semi, 'kingfisher', is native to much of Eurasia, including Japan. Although there are other native kingfishers in Japan, Rakusan was very fond of this species, and he used it in several artworks.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 132 Changeable Rosemallow theme:
132-1 132-2 132-3 132-4 132-5

Other designs with a related species of rosemallow:

Other designs with kingfishers:
68 125-5 132-2