Japanese Morning Glory, Ipomoea (Parbitis) is originally not native to Japan. However, it was imported from China about 1,200 years ago, and it is now important in Japanese culture. In Japan morning glories have been extensively hybridized and selected to modify their colors and flower-forms. Rakusan used several different varieties in his designs. Rakusan had earlier illustrated the same morning glory variety appearing in 107 in 100 Series design 27 where he called it simply 朝顔, asagao, ‘morning glory’, and that usage has been adapted here for the title for both the print of 107 and its theme. Here the bamboo stake support indicates that the morning glory is growing in a garden setting.
This design is the seventh of thirty-six woodblock prints in Rakusan’s second main sequence series, 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen, lit. ‘Koushisei’s Print Selection’ (referred to as the 36 Series). Rakusan originally labeled this design number 7. 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 107, the 107th design published in his main sequence. Rakusan occasionally wrote his identification number in pencil on the reverse of the print. This print is Edition I, Morph 107 (a) (1934-1941) based on the research.
The Woodblock Print
This oban-sized woodblock is in very good to excellent condition. Beautiful color and detail, fine bokashi shading, and the gofun-paste whites and metallic ink highlights are in excellent condition. There is toning to the margins, but it doesn’t extend into the printed image area. The piece has been detached from its presentation paper, but the embossed presentation piece will be included. A clean verso with a hint of the detachment from the presentation folder.
About the Artist
Rakusan Tsuchiya (1896 – 1976) focused on capturing the natural world through lush compositions, rich color and sparkling embellishments. Originally trained as a painter, Rakusan gained renown as a woodblock print artist through his self-published kacho-e, or bird and flower prints. Born in Hyogo prefecture, Rakusan worked in Kyoto. In 1913, he became the pupil of the influential painter Seiho Takeuchi. During 1920s through 1950s, Rakusan built a successful career as a print artist. He produced his most successful series, “Rakusan Kacho Gafu” (Rakusan Flower and Bird Series), between 1929 and 1933. Based on paintings he had completed between 1925 and 1929, the 100 large-scale woodblock prints proved so popular that many designs remained in print until his studio closed in 1955.