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 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.
115-4 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 4 in the 115 Dahlia theme.
Like all other designs in this series, 115-4 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.
The Rakusan project which produced 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen
, resulted in two related series of woodblock prints.
Each print of the 36 Series
is intimately connected to a group of prints with the same subjects in the Fan Series
Together these subject-related prints in the two series constitute a theme.
Each theme consists of a quintet of monochrome Fan Series
designs (one design in each of the five fan shapes), plus one polychrome, 36 Series
design which illustrates the theme subject.
The 115 Dahlia 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 115 Dahlia theme were distributed in mid 1934 in installment five (of twelve). In the preview announcement on the installment four folio in June 1934, Rakusan used ダリヤ, dariya, 'dahlia' as the title for this theme.
The delivery documents for installment five remain to be discovered, but its delivery month was either July or August 1934. The woodblock prints would have been printed earlier in the same month as their distribution. The Fan Series dahlia prints were carved in two stages. Three prints (including 115-4) have seal C from the first half of 1934, and the other two and the 36 Series design 115 have seal B which is later and closer to the time of publication.
Some of the dahlia designs were adapted from sketches originally created in the late 1920s for design 94 of the earlier 100 Series (see below).
However, because the Fan Series designs include other varieties of dahlia, it is evident that the subject of the 115 Dahlia theme is dahlias in general and not any particular variety.
The composition of 115-4 includes two dahlia stems, one with a fully open flower and the other with a partly opened bud. The plant is supported by a bamboo stake. Sitting on the stem with the bud is a small brown-butterfly.
All of the floral elements are rendered as sweeping, painterly, line drawings; and the butterfly is in a finer and more detailed style. Both styles look equally well viewed as ishizuri or as the reversed original.
The woodblock print of 115-4 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:
115-4 as originally drawn (reconstruction)
Garden Dahlia (Dahlia
) hybrids are very popular introduced ornamental plants in Japan, and many new varieties and forms have been developed by Japanese horticulturalists.
Dahlia tubers cannot survive cold winters and are typically dug up, stored, and replanted each year.
Therefore dahlias only occur in carefully tended garden settings, and are often supported with bamboo stakes.
The Western name Dahlia has been variously borrowed into Japanese as だりや, ダリヤ, dariya; ダリア, daria; ダーリヤ, daariya; and ダーリア, daaria.
However, Rakusan invariably used the dariya spelling (だりや in handwriting as in the title caption of 94 in the 100 Series , and ダリヤ in machine-printing, as on the Fan Series installment four folio envelope).
However, modern botanical practice is to use ダリア, daria. (In writing a foreign word, katakana is always preferred today.)
An older name was 天竺牡丹, tenjiku-botan, lit. 'Indian treepeony' (referring to India, although the plants are originally Central American).
Rakusan was typically very detailed in his depictions of insects, and it is almost always possible to identify them to some degree. The small butterfly with eye-spotted wings shown in 115-4 can only be a satyrid (or satyrine) or brown-butterfly (family Nymphalidae, subfamily Satyrinae), 蛇の目蝶 , じゃのめちょう, ジャノメチョウ, janome-chou. [蛇の目, じゃのめ, ジャノメ, janome, means 'bull's-eye or double ring (pattern)' (lit. 'snake's-eye').] However, its wings have a pattern which does not closely match the most commonly encountered species. It is unclear whether or not Rakusan has taken artistic liberties with the spot pattern, or it is intended as an actual species which has yet to be identified.
The brown-butterflies in 105-2, 113-5, and 115-4 are particularly similar.