This design is the fifteenth of thirty-six woodblock prints in Rakusan's second main sequence series,
篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen
, lit. 'Koushisei's Print Selection' (usually called here the 36 Series
). Rakusan originally labeled this design number 15. However, after 1936 reprinting two series with duplicated numbering caused some confusion. To avoid further problems Rakusan decided to extend the numbering system from the preceding 100 Series
into the 36 Series
, and this design was relabeled as number 115, the 115th design published in his main sequence. Rakusan occasionally wrote his identification number in pencil on the reverse of the print.
Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings and Morphs:
||+ Seal B
||Morph 115 (a)
||+ Seal B
||Morph 115 (b)
[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article.
For edition and dating characteristics applicable to the entire series, see the Editions article.]
The woodblock print of 115 was adapted from an actual-size original painting on silk, 115-0. Because Rakusan intended to retain all of the 36 Series
prototypes in his personal collection, he did not affix a signature or seal, and the silk remained loose and unmounted. The silk was originally a pale cream color, but over time it has significantly yellowed:
|115-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Edition I (1934-1941): The background in the 115-0 painting is a rich golden tan with bands of gold glitter across the middle. In interpreting 115-0 as a woodblock print Rakusan opted to simplify his original background treatment to a plain, pale color with no glitter. This particular pale hue (which Rakusan used for several 36 Series designs) is very difficult to photograph with any color accuracy, and using photographs for comparison (such as the two illustrations at top) can be very misleading. Although fairly similar in person, this background color can vary in appearance in photographs from a cool beige through peach to pale pink. In addition the ink is thin enough that yellowing of the paper can show through and further alter the appearance of this color.
Like most 36 Series designs 115 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. However, edition I of 115 includes two roughly contemporaneous color morphs 115 (a) and 115 (b). Both versions have been documented in association with presentation sheets (see below), making both of them relatively early in edition I.
Edition I, Morph 115 (a) (1934-1941): Morph 115 (a) is the most frequently encountered version of 115 and accounts for about eighty percent of the documented examples. The stems and leaves are contoured with various shades of green, and there are no metallic inks on any part of the design. From its occurrence in most of the earliest complete sets, it is probable that morph 115 (a) is the original woodblock print version. The first example above is a typical copy of edition I, morph 115 (a).
Edition I, Morph 115 (b) (1934-1941):
Morph 115 (b) represents an attempt to include the bright highlights of the prototype painting 115-0 by use of golden metallic ink. These additions are most evident on the leaf at lower center which has a round dot of gold ink at left and a gold ink heart-shaped tip at right. Only a relatively few copies of morph 115 (b) have been documented, and it is possible that this variant was an experiment used only in a single print run. Failure to continue to use the metallic ink may have been an aesthetic choice, or as war approached, Rakusan may have been unable to obtain further supplies. The second example above is a typical copy of edition I, morph 115 (b).
The earliest 36 Series prints were delivered tipped into recessed wells of presentation sheets embossed in their lower margins with the series title.
Because all early edition I prints once had these presentation sheets, a copy which retains its presentation sheet must have been printed during the 1930s.
After his supply of presentation sheets was exhausted, Rakusan distributed subsequently-reprinted copies loose.
A limited number of leftover earlier-printed copies of some designs on presentation sheets were still being distributed shortly after World War II, but by then most designs were only available as loose sheets.
However, absence of presentation sheets is not diagnostic of later printings because many early prints have subsequently been detached from theirs.
Copies of both morphs 115 (a) and 115 (b) have been preserved with presentation sheets.
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,
design which illustrates the theme subject.
The theme is labeled here by the original Rakusan number of its 36 Series
design followed by the subject.
115 is the 36 Series
design of the 115 Dahlia
The 115 Dahlia theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. Three of the five Fan Series designs have seal C which indicates carving dates between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934. However, the 36 Series design 115 and the other two Fan Series designs have seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.
On the Fan Series delivery folio for installment four on June 25, 1934 Rakusan announced dahlia designs as due to appear in installment five the following month, July 1934. Rakusan used the theme title ダリヤ, dariya, 'dahlia', which would also have been the title of 36 Series design 115 to be issued at the same time. However, the delivery documents for installment five have yet to be located, and it is not known if installment five was actually distributed on time or was delayed. The publications of installment four in June 1934 and of installment six in September 1934 constrain the publication of installment five to one of the two intervening months, July or August 1934, and indicate that the other month had no delivery. The woodblock prints for installment five would have been printed during the same month as their distribution.
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).
115 is especially close to 94 since both designs include the same variety of dahlia in the same two colors and patterns, together with the same insect. In the title-caption for 94 Rakusan used ぽんぽんダリヤ, ponpon dariya, 'pompon dahlia' as the name of this variety. Japanese ぽんぽん, ポンポン, ponpon, is borrowed from the flower form name pompon used in several Western languages. Rakusan illustrated pompon dahlias in 94, 115-5, and 115.
However, because the corresponding 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.
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).
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).
The large insect is clearly a member of the grasshopper family Acrididae.
It is probably the Oriental Long-headed Locust, Acrida cinerea, 精霊飛蝗, しょうりょうばった, ショウリョウバッタ, shouryou-batta, lit. 'spirit-locust', a common Japanese species.
Rakusan has used the same sort of insect in several different designs.