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 one hundred eighty 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.
102-5 indicates that this is a Fan Series design with fan shape 5 in the 102 Rabbitear Iris theme. Like all other designs in this series, 102-5 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.
(Note that the copy of 102-5 illustrated above is foxed. The foxing is most evident on the paper surrounding the fan shape.)
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA; (1946) 46.408 [not illustrated online].
Although each theme typically consists of a quintet of monochrome Fan Series
designs (one design in each of the five fan shapes), the 102 Rabbitear Iris
theme is irregular in both its history and its composition.
When Rakusan was experimenting with designs which would become the Fan Series
and the 36 Series
, he had originally thought to have multiple themes with the same general subjects. He began by creating and carving a few representative designs from each of those themes he intended to publish first. After having carved four iris designs divided among two planned iris themes, Rakusan changed his mind. However, not wanting to waste his previous efforts, he combined these two incomplete themes into one.
The resultant 102 Rabbitear Iris theme anomalously has two designs with fan shape 1, and one design each of fan shapes 4 and 5; but no designs in fan shapes 2 and 3. These designs include several different styles; and other than the duplicated fan shape 1 designs, the others can no longer be reliably re-separated into two original groups.
The four Fan Series designs (including 102-5) and the 36 Series design 102 in the 102 Rabbitear Iris theme have seal A and were all created and carved approximately in the third quarter of 1933. According to the Fan Series delivery documents for installment one, the woodblock prints of the 102 Rabbitear Iris theme were printed in January 1934 and distributed January 20, 1934 in the first delivery, installment one (of twelve). There Rakusan used the theme title かきつばた, kakitsubata, 'rabbitear iris'.
Installment one has two irregular themes. Because of a similar merger, the preceding 101 Rose theme ended up with six Fan Series designs. Therefore in order to make the installment total come out correctly, the 102 Rabbitear Iris theme only has the original four Fan Series designs.
The remainder of the installment quota of fifteen designs in three themes comes from the five designs in the following 103 Tree-peony theme.
The 102 Rabbitear Iris theme is the first of two similar iris themes.
Much later in the series Rakusan created the 128 Japanese Iris theme which is entirely regular in its arrangement. However, that later theme represents a separate, subsequent, addition to the two series which is entirely distinct from the 102 Rabbitear Iris theme.
At least some of the designs in both iris themes were adapted from iris sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of the earlier 100 Series. The 102 Rabbitear Iris theme is related to designs 23alt and 23, and the 128 Japanese Iris theme to design 47 (see below).
The composition of 102-5 includes a single iris plant with a fully opened blossom and a closed bud beginning to show color. Since the design is reversed, this iris is meant to be a dark purple variety. The flowers are shown silhouetted with internal lines - essentially a line drawing with the solid background darkened out. However, the leaves are simple line drawings on that background. The stylized, symmetrical holes in the flower are a design mannerism copied directly from 伊藤若冲 Itou Jakuchuu
(1715-1800) whose work inspired the development of the entire series. (Jakuchu's influences on this series are the subject of a separate article not yet available online.) Notice that the composition of 102-5 is close to the mirror image of that of 102. The woodblock print of 102-5 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:
102-5 as originally drawn (reconstruction)
Rabbitear Iris, Iris laevigata
, 杜若, 燕子(花), かきつばた, カキツバタ, kakitsubata
, is native to Japan where it grows in shallow water in ponds and marshes.
There are many Japanese names for kinds of iris, and considerable hybridizing and selection have linked the original individual species into a complex continuum.