Signature and Seal Markings:
|Edition I (only edition):
||+ Seal C
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.
135-5 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 5 in the 135 Freshwater Fish theme.
Like all other designs in this series, 135-5 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.
The 135 Freshwater Fish
theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. The Fan Series
designs of the 135 Freshwater Fish
theme are unique in that each has a title naming the illustrated species which is incorporated into the composition.
However, 135 (like all 36 Series
designs) has no original title.
Although, more generally described here simply as freshwater fish, it should be noted that all of the named fish are commonly eaten, and several are commercially farmed.
The Fan Series
prints of the 135 Freshwater Fish
theme were distributed in early 1935 in installment twelve (of twelve).
The delivery documents for installment twelve remain to be discovered. The series as originally announced would have seen this last installment published in December 1934. However, with documented delays the earliest month it could actually have been delivered is March 1935, and it may well have been even further delayed.
Four of the five fan designs in this theme (including 135-5) have seal C which indicates a carving date during the first half of 1934. The remaining fan design (135-1) has seal R which is a rare minor seal whose carving period has yet to be established.
Despite the early completion of its wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 135 Freshwater Fish theme until the following year. It was eventually grouped with other summer season themes at the end of the series. Use of seal B on the 36 Series design 135 suggests it was carved at least a bit later than the fan prints.
The composition of 135-5 includes seven sweetfish rendered as detailed line drawings which look equally well as ishizuri or reversed. Five wavy lines indicate that the fish are alive and swimming in the water. Most of the fish are seen from above, and other aspects have been included to aid in recognition of the kind of fish. In the upper right Rakusan has incorporated a title, 鮎, ayu
The woodblock print of 135-5 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:
135-5 as originally drawn (reconstruction)
Sweetfish (or Ayu), Plecoglossus altivelis
, 鮎, 香魚, 年魚, あゆ, アユ, ayu
, is a kind of small, amphidromous trout found in many Japanese rivers, including those near Kyoto. The Japanese name is now often used as well in English. It is excellent eating and much sought after.