Rakusan Tsuchiya Biography

Rakusan Tsuchiya




Rakusan Tsuchiya was born Tsuchiya Kouzou on April 25, 1896 in the Hyogo Prefecture before his family moved to Kyoto and during his early studio years he used that name in his role as a printer/publisher or producer/distributor. For seven years, between 1913 and 1920 Rakusan was apprenticed to the great Kyoto artist Takeuchi Seihou, (1864-1942), usually called "Seiho". Rakusan’s artworks show many parallels to works by his master as well as to those of other contemporary Seiho students.

Working under the name ‘Rakusan Koshisei’ as well, Rakusan found success in printmaking from the 1920s through 1950s. Around 1925 he started preparations for his most famous series of woodblock prints and, between 1929 and 1933, he produced his most popular woodblock series, Rakusan Kacho Gafu (Rakusan Flower and Bird Series), composed of 100 large-scale woodblock prints based on paintings he had completed between 1925 and 1929.

The series was intended to be printed in editions of 200 prints for each design. However, quite a few designs were so popular that also a second edition and a third edition were printed. The second edition was printed until the main studio closed in 1941, the third edition was printed between 1948 and 1955, when the studio closed down permanently.

After 1948 Rakusan formed a business relationship with Walter T. Foster of Laguna Beach, CA to distribute his prints in the United States. Foster first met Rakusan on a vacation trip to Japan sometime not long after 1948. Foster was initially very impressed with Rakusan's work, and he was keenly interested in acquiring a complete set of the designs for his personal collection. Through repeated Foster visits and purchases, the two men became good friends. Eventually, a business arrangement was also arrived at. Walter Foster also produced the how-to book The Art of Rakusan Tsuchiya, Famous Print Maker of Japan during the 1950s. [Walter Foster "How to Draw" Art Books #57], A Walter T. Foster Publication, Walter Foster Art Books, Tustin, California.

After his relationship with Foster ended Rakusan continued to sell prints from his home intermittently through the early 1970s, but the sales of prints through Foster had been halted some years previously. Nevertheless, Foster kept the booklet in print and paid royalties on it to Rakusan, and later to his family after Rakusan died in Japan in 1976.

There is a Rakusan Raisonne website devoted to Rakusan by Dr Michael J. P.  Nichols: http://www.rakusan.net/index.html. from which some of this biography has been taken.