[modernly supplied title]


tachi-aoi ni hachi

Hollyhock and Bumblebee


Assigned Number / 規定番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

136 Hollyhock Theme / 136 タチアオイ画題

Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I (only edition): 楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei + Seal C

[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. 136-4 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 4 in the 136 Hollyhock theme. Like all other designs in this series, 136-4 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.

Theme History:
The 136 Hollyhock theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. The Fan Series prints of the 136 Hollyhock theme were distributed in early 1935 in installment twelve (of twelve) and is the last theme of the entire series. 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.

Like 136-4 each of the fan designs in this theme has seal C which indicates a carving date during the first half of 1934. Despite the early completion of its wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 136 Hollyhock 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 136 suggests it was carved at least a bit later than the fan prints.

At least some of the hollyhock designs in the 136 Hollyhock theme were adapted from among sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 13 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).

The composition of 136-4 includes two relatively slender hollyhock bloom spikes with a single associated leaf. Flying below the open blossom is a bee. Its wings are blurred at the ends to suggest motion, and it is shown at a larger scale to make it seem closer to the viewer. All of the design elements are rendered as simple line drawings which look equally well as ishizuri or reversed.

The woodblock print of 136-4 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:

136-4 as originally drawn (reconstruction)

Species Illustrated:
Hollyhock, Alcea (Althaea) rosea, 立(ち)葵, たちあおい, タチアオイ, tachi-aoi, lit. 'erect mallow', is a familiar garden plant in Japan and around the world. Hollyhock was first imported into Japan from China hundreds of years ago, and the plant became important in Japanese cultural life. Many color variations and flower forms have been developed by Japanese breeders. Rakusan used several kinds of hollyhocks in his artworks.

The general name for any bee, wasp, or hornet is 蜂, はち, ハン, hachi. Like English, Japanese also has a general name for any bumblebee, 丸花蜂, 円花蜂, まるはなばち, マルハナバチ, maru-hana-bachi, lit. 'round flower-bee'. Here the bee shown could be a bumblebee of the genus Bombus. It could also be some kind of honeybee, 蜜蜂, みつばち, ミツバチ, mitsubachi, (lit. honey-bee). However, the bee is very sketchily rendered, and exact identification is likely impossible.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 136 Hollyhock theme:
136-1 136-2 136-3 136-5 136

Other designs with hollyhocks:
13alt 13

Other designs with various kinds of bees:
104-5 105-3 107-5 115-5 129-5