[modernly supplied title]




Assigned Number / 規定番号


Theme Identification / 画題識別

109 Eggplant Theme / 109 ナス画題

Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I (only edition): 篁子生 Kou-shi-sei + Seal B

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. 109-1 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 1 in the 109 Eggplant theme. Like all other designs in this series, 109-1 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.

Theme History:
The 109 Eggplant 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 109 Eggplant theme were distributed in early 1934 in installment three (of twelve). The delivery documents for installment three remain to be discovered, but its delivery month was either March, April, or May 1934. The individual woodblock prints would have been printed earlier in the same month as their distribution.

The individual designs in the 109 Eggplant theme were completed in at least two stages. 109-1 has seal C which indicates a carving date during the first half of 1934. However, the other four fan designs (including 109-1) and the 36 Series design 109 all have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication. (The 109 Eggplant theme is unusual in being the theme with the most designs with seal B.)

In early 1934 when Rakusan did a major rearrangement of his themes, he placed the only themes with vegetable and fruit subjects in consecutive order. What became the 109 Eggplant theme was used to finish out installment three, and the three fruit themes (what became themes 110, 111, and 112) immediately followed as as installment four.

Unlike some themes which have designs adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of the earlier 100 Series, there is no demonstrable link here. However, Rakusan used eggplants in other paintings, and would have had eggplant studies in his lost sketchbooks.

The composition of 109-1 shows a two sections of eggplant with leaves, a young fruit, and a maturing fruit. The eggplant is rendered in a loose flowing style with bold lines and solid highlights which works equally well either as ishizuri or in the original sketch.

The woodblock print of 109-1 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:

109-1 as originally drawn (reconstruction)

Species Illustrated:
Eggplant (Aubergine), Solanum melongena, 茄(子), なす, ナス, nasu, is originally not native to Japan. However, it was imported during prehistory as an agricultural crop. Eggplant comes in many varieties, shapes, and colors.

Related Designs:
Other designs in the 109 Eggplant theme:
109-2 109-3 109-4 109-5 109