This design is the thirty-third 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 33. 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 133, the 133rd 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 133 was adapted from 133-0, 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:
|133-0 (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 133 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Although all documented copies of 133 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 representing the ground area. Other differences include color variations in the portions printed in yellow (and yellow mixed to form green), red-violet, and lavender. Unfortunately, all of these particular Rakusan pigments are susceptible to chemical degradation, and the condition of many of the more divergent copies is suspect. Therefore, it has not yet been possible to use these individual differences to distinguish consistent color morphs. However, 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 133.
The copy illustrated above is typical of an early edition I printing with an undamaged presentation sheet.
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.
133 is the 36 Series
design of the 133 Clematis
The 133 Clematis theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print.133 and two 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 three Fan Series designs have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication. The 133 Clematis theme was eventually grouped with other summer season themes near the end of the series. Rakusan deliberately repositioned 133 immediately after 132 with which it shares its historical development (see below).
The Fan Series and 36 Series woodblock prints of the 133 Clematis 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 133 is unknown.
The designs of the 133 Clematis theme (and of the immediately preceding 132 Changeable Rosemallow 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 133 Clematis theme, three of the five Fan Series designs are taken directly from TBS,
and the other two are original designs which are only partially in the TBS style.
The 36 Series design 133 is also taken in part from TBS, but has been adapted in Rakusan's own style.
The pose of the bird and its interest in a large insect are from TBS, but Rakusan made the bird more realistic and identifiable and he substituted a larger and more dynamically posed insect.
The use of a bamboo trellis for the vine indicates a garden setting.
partial model for 133 (from TBS part 3 Birds)
Chinese Clematis (Leather Flower), Clematis florida
, 鉄線, てっせん, テッセン, tessen
, is a common garden flower in Japan.
Today, with the many hybrid varieties, all clematis may be referred to as くれまちす, クレマチス, kuremachisu
, from the Latin and English names.
The original species Rakusan illustrates here has pale blue flowers.
Gray Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, 黄鶺鴒, きせきれい, キセキレイ, ki-sekirei, lit. 'yellow wagtail' is a common Japanese native.
Narrow-winged Mantis, Tenodera angustipennis is a Japanese native insect which has many common names,
of which 蟷螂, 螳螂, 鎌切, かまきり, カマキリ, kamakiri, is perhaps most recognizable.