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Landscapes: Kyoto 2 (LK2 Paintings)

A set of ten oban size Kyoto landscape paintings on silk are called here Landscapes: Kyoto 2 (LK2). None of the paintings have signatures or seals. Most of these are smaller versions of the same subjects included in LK1 paintings. One important difference between the two sets is that there are no winter season paintings in LK2. The ten LK2 paintings correspond to only the other three seasons and include motifs traditional to those seasons: Spring (Cherry Blossoms), Summer (Daimonji or Iris), and Autumn (Maple Leaves).

The individual LK2 designs are medium size, and significantly smaller and more simplified compared to those in LK1. Just as Rakusan reduced the 36 Series from the size and complexity of the 100 Series, the LK2 designs were an attempt to make the 100 Landscapes Series easier and more practical to produce as woodblock prints. It is difficult to date the LK2 paintings closely, but their derivation from LK1 implies that they were created after those in the larger format set. A publicity photograph of the Rakusan studio operation that could only have been taken in the summer of 1935 shows a completed LK2-9 hanging on the right side wall; so the LK2 set had been at least begun by that time. The omission of winter season designs is probably best explained by an overlap with the creation of the even smaller format LK3 set which consists exclusively of winter scenes. Since Rakusan was already producing simplified winter designs in LK3, he did not bother to do them in LK2 also.

By this time Rakusan’s problems with keeping adequate skilled staff and locating sufficient funding were chronic. Producing even another smaller new woodblock print series comparable to the 36 Series would have been difficult if not impossible given his available resources. Instead Rakusan concentrated on reprinting designs from both of his earlier kacho series the 36 Series and the 100 Series; and he set the LK2 paintings aside. He probably had no idea that this was a permanent relegation and that he would never again produce a series of woodblock prints using new designs. In any case, no direct woodblock print versions of any LK2 paintings were ever produced, and the LK2 series of paintings remained in Rakusan's personal collection. To this day these paintings are proudly displayed to favored visitors as examples of Rakusan's best work.

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© 2015 Dr Michael J P Nichols

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