Signature and Seal Markings:
|Edition I (only edition):
[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.
125-5 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 5 in the 125 Pussywillow theme.
Like all other designs in this series, 125-5 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.
The 125 Pussywillow
theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print.
On the delivery folio for installment eight of the Fan Series
in November 1934, Rakusan announced theme 125 as due to appear in installment nine in the following month, December 1934.
However, it is not known if the installment nine was actually distributed in that month or was delayed.
The woodblock prints were likely printed during the same month as their distribution.
All five fan designs (including 125-5) have seal C, which indicates a carving date during the first half of 1934.
Despite the early completion of those wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 125 Pussywillow theme at least for several months. It was eventually grouped with other winter season themes nearer to the end of the series. However, the 36 Series design 125 has seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.
In the folio announcement Rakusan used the title 猫柳に鴫, nekoyanagi ni shigi, 'pussywillow and shorebird', which is actually applicable only to the 36 Series design 125.
The only subject common to all of the designs in this theme is the pussywillow. Therefore, a more general title, the 125 Pussywillow theme is used here.
Some of these pussywillow designs were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of designs 83 and 86 in the earlier 100 Series (see below). .
The composition of 125-5 includes four branches of pussywillow in the foreground. Behind is a body of water suggested by wavy lines. Three thick wooden pilings emerge from the water, and a small kingfisher (conventionally stylized with an over-large beak) sits on the tallest one. The pussywillow and the pilings have a heavy covering of snow and light snow (suggested by flecks in the background) is still falling. Except for the falling snow which is white only in the ishizuri version, the rest of the composition is painstakingly carved so that the ishizuri version is an exact negative of the original sketch.
The woodblock print of 125-5 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:
125-5 as originally drawn (reconstruction)
Rosegold Pussywillow, Salix gracilistyla
, 猫柳, ねこやなぎ, ネコヤナギ, neko-yanagi
, lit. 'cat-willow' is a common native species in Japan.
The variety name is based on the name for Weeping Willow, Salix babylonica
, 柳, 楊, 楊柳, やなぎ, ヤナギ, yanagi
, which is also used as a general name for any willow, much as in English.
Rakusan was fond of willow motifs and used them in several artworks.
Common (River) Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, 翡翠, 川蝉, かわせみ, カワセミ kawa-semi, 'kingfisher', is native to much of Eurasia, including Japan.
Rakusan was very fond of this species, and he used it in several artworks.
Although there are other native kingfishers in Japan, Rakusan only depicted this species.