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.
103-4 indicates that this is a Fan Series design with fan shape 4 in the 103 Tree-peony theme. Like all other designs in this series, 103-4 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.
(Note that the copy of 103-4 illustrated above is foxed. The foxing is most evident on the paper surrounding the fan shape.)
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 103 Tree-peony
theme. The 36 Series
designs for all six were also completed and carved within that same short period.
The Fan Series
woodblock prints of the 103 Tree-peony
theme were distributed in January 1934 in the first delivery, installment one (of twelve).
The other two themes in installment one are irregular, and the 103 Tree-peony theme is the first of the entirely regular themes in the series.
Later in the series Rakusan created a second tree-peony theme.
That later 117 Winter Tree-peony theme is also perfectly regular in arrangement and content, but each of those designs bears later markings.
The designs in the two tree-peony themes also differ in execution with the petals in the 103 Tree-peony theme more silhouette-like,
and those in the 117 Winter Tree-peony theme filled with scribed parallel lines.
The 117 Winter Tree-peony theme represents a separate later addition to the series which (apart from its shared subject) is entirely distinct from the 103 Tree-peony theme.
At least some of the designs in the 103 Tree-peony theme were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 10 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).
Similarly, the designs in the 117 Winter Tree-peony theme were adapted from sketches for design 11.
The composition of 103-4 includes a single tree-peony bud and branch with two leaves which is executed as a simple line drawing. The woodblock print of 103-4 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:
103-4 as originally drawn (reconstruction)
Tree-peony, Paeonia suffruticosa,
牡丹, ぼたん, ボタン, botan
, now comes in many colors, shapes, and varieties.
Winter-blooming Tree-peony, Paeonia suffruticosa
, 寒牡丹, kan-botan
; or 冬牡丹, fuyu-botan
both lit. 'winter tree-peony', is the earliest-blooming variety of tree-peony and typically begins to bloom before the winter snow has melted.
Therefore, to protect the new growth the plants are typically staked and often protected from the weight of the snow by a woven grass mat as a kind of open tent structure.