Signature and Seal Markings:
|Edition I (only edition):
||+ Seal A
The signature 篁子生, Kou-shi-sei forms the basis of the titles for both series in the 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen, Project. However on woodblock prints it is an uncommon signature variation used with only a few designs. Rakusan soon elaborated this signature to 楽山篁子生, Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei, which is found on most later woodblock prints.
[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article.]
Series History and Definitions:
During the two years between mid 1933 and mid 1935 Rakusan produced a series of 180 individual woodblock-printed fan designs.
These fan designs are printed as negative images with a single impression of black ink.
Although all are actually woodblock prints, this traditional negative-image printing style is called 石摺(り), ishi-zuri
, lit. 'stone rubbing', from its superficial resemblance to that technique.
Rakusan called this series
篁子生石摺画選, Koushisei Ishizuri Gasen
, lit. 'Koushisei's Stone-rubbing Print Selection', but it is usually called here the Fan Series
Rakusan arranged the Fan Series prints into shared-subject groups typically consisting of one design in each of five different fan silhouette shapes.
Each of these groups of Fan Series designs are united by a corresponding polychrome 36 Series design which defines the subject.
Each shared-subject Fan Series group and its 36 Series design together comprise a theme (画題, gadai).
Rakusan did not include the Fan Series in his main sequence numbering.
Therefore, the original number used for each of the 36 Series prints has been modified to identify the Fan Series members of its theme.
The five different fan silhouette shapes have been here assigned arbitrary numbers 1 through 5.
To indicate a fan design these shape designations are added to the 36 Series number separated by a hyphen. In themes which contain duplicated fan shapes, one has been arbitrarily designated A and the other B.
105-2 indicates that this is a Fan Series design with fan shape 2 in the 105 Butterfly theme. Like all other designs in this series, 105-2 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.
Rakusan began creating the Fan Series
with a mixed set of designs whose signatures and seals suggest they were carved during the last half of 1933. Aside from a scattering of designs eventually used for later themes, the majority of these early designs were assembled into the first six themes of the series, including the 105 Butterfly
theme. The 36 Series
designs for all six were also completed and carved within that same short period.
The 105 Butterfly
theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. The Fan Series
woodblock prints of the 105 Butterfly
theme were distributed in early 1934 in installment two (of twelve).
The delivery documents for installment two remain to be discovered, but its delivery month was either February, March, or April 1934, and the woodblock prints would have been printed during the same month as the publication.
Butterflies and other insects often occur as subsidiary elements in Rakusan designs.
However, in all of the other themes where they appear, those themes are defined by kinds of plants.
The 105 Butterfly theme uniquely reverses the focus; its theme subject is defined instead by a kind of insect, and the plants are non-thematic subsidiary elements.
Since 105-5 includes only butterflies, it is evident that the butterfly alone defines this theme since it is the only element common to all of these designs.
The composition of 105-2 includes a small brown-butterfly sitting on a leafy stem of spiny sowthistle with three buds. The sowthistle is drawn with loose, painterly lines which look equally well in the ishizuri version or in the original. However, in the ishizuri version the very detailed line drawing of the butterfly shows the color pattern of its wings as it is in life. In this and a few other early drawings Rakusan used outlining to set apart elements whose ishizuri versions were at least in part the natural ones. It is probable that the original sketch showed the butterfly in proper coloration, and the adjustments were made during carving. As a result 105-2 is one of several early designs where Rakusan struggled with his ishizuri techniques.
The woodblock print of 105-2 was modeled closely on an actual-size original sumi sketch which although lost can be reconstructed by digitally reversing the image of the woodblock print:
105-2 as originally drawn (reconstruction)
Rakusan was typically very detailed in his depictions of insects, and it is almost always possible to identify them to some degree. The small butterfly with eye-spotted wings shown in 105-2 can only be a satyrid (or satyrine) or brown-butterfly (family Nymphalidae, subfamily Satyrinae), 蛇の目蝶 , じゃのめちょう, ジャノメチョウ, janome-chou
. [蛇の目, じゃのめ, ジャノメ, janome
, means 'bull's-eye or double ring (pattern)' (lit. 'snake's-eye').] However, its wings have a pattern which does not closely match the most commonly encountered species. It is unclear whether or not Rakusan has taken artistic liberties with the spot pattern, or it is intended as an actual species which has yet to be identified. The brown-butterflies in 105-2, 113-5, and 115-4 are particularly similar.
Spiny Sowthistle, Sonchus oleraceus, 野芥子, のげし, ノゲシ, no-geshi, is a common native weed.
It is used in 105-2 and in 105 (with a different kind of butterfly) in this theme; as well as in a river crab design, 131-2.
In all of these examples the plant is a non-thematic subsidiary element.