This design is the thirty-sixth and last 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 36. 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 136, the 136th and last 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 B [brownish red]
||Morph 136 (a)
||+ Seal B [bright red]
||Morph 136 (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 136 was adapted from 136-0, 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:
|136-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Like most 36 Series designs 136 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. However, 136 has at least two differently colored versions, 136 (a) and 136 (b), which serve to distinguish copies from edition I and edition II repectively:
Edition I, Morph 136 (a) (1935-1941): Almost all of the documented copies of 136 are from the original prewar printings and are currently referred to a variable edition I, morph 136 (a). There is considerable variation in the single color of the living hollyhock stems and buds which on individual copies may range in appearance from a light, neutral gray to a dull, darkish green. With more examples it may eventually be possible to define more than one edition I morph. All of the edition I variants are otherwise very similar. The bird appears evenly brown with a few black outlines, and the stomach ruff is a paler brown. The seal is a dark brownish red, and the background is a warm, rich, tan. The first example illustrated above is typical of edition I, morph 136 (a) except that the actual background color is darker than in this illustration, and there are a few discolorations along the left margin on this copy.
Edition II, Morph 136 (b) (1948-1955): Copies of morph 136 (b) are very rare, indicating that there was only a single, small, print run of 136 during the postwar reprinting period. All documented copies of morph 136 (b) have the secondarily applied Foster era cursive Rakusan romaji signature. The living hollyhock stems are a pale bluish green. The bird is grayish brown with orange brown highlights, and the stomach ruff and the outer ends of the wings are a neutral gray. The formerly dark seal is bright red, and the background is a lighter and cooler tan with an overall greenish cast. The second example illustrated above is typical of edition II, morph 136 (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.
136 is the 36 Series
design of the 136 Hollyhock
The 136 Hollyhock theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. All 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 36 Series design 136 has seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication. Despite the early completion of many of its wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 136 Hollyhock theme until the following year. It was eventually grouped with other summer season themes at the end of the series.
The Fan Series and 36 Series prints of the 136 Hollyhock theme were distributed in mid 1935 in installment twelve (of twelve), making this theme the last one in both series.
The series as originally announced would have seen this final installment published in December 1934. However, with previously documented delays the earliest month it could actually have been delivered is May 1935, and it may well have been even further delayed. Each of the woodblock prints in this theme would have been printed in the same month as their distribution.
Although the delivery documents for installment twelve remain to be discovered, the Fan Series delivery documents for installment ten from March 25, 1935 announced hollyhock designs as what would be expected to be theme 132 to appear the following month, April 1935, in installment eleven. However, all three of the announced themes for installment eleven were actually delayed and not published until installment twelve. After this rearrangement the Hollyhock theme ended up being published as theme 136. In the installment ten documents Rakusan used the title 立葵, tachi-aoi, 'hollyhock', which was intended both as the theme designation and the title of 36 Series design 136.
At least some of the hollyhock designs in this theme were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 13 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, HI, USA; (1994) 25641 [illustrated online].
Hollyhock, Alcea (Althaea) rosea
, 立(ち)葵, たちあおい, タチアオイ, tachi-aoi
, lit. 'erect mallow', is a familiar garden plant in Japan and around the world.
Hollyhock was first imported into Japan from China hundreds of years ago, and the plant became important in Japanese cultural life.
Many color variations and flower forms have been developed by Japanese breeders.
Rakusan used several kinds of hollyhocks in his artworks.
Japanese Bush Warbler (Japanese Nightingale), Cettia diphone, 鴬, うぐいす, ウグイス, uguisu,
is a common native bird beloved for its sweet song.
It is frequently depicted in art, and it has many literary and poetic names.
Rakusan used more than one name for this species.
(For a fuller discussion of the Bush Warbler names see 4 in the 100 Series.)