Signature and Seal Markings:
|Edition I (only edition):
||+ Seal C
[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 as part of a larger project which included the related 36 Series
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.
125-4 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 4 in the 125 Pussywillow theme.
Like all other designs in this series, 125-4 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented. All of the Fan Series prints were originally distributed tipped into recessed wells of presentation sheets with the overall project title, 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen, embossed in their lower margins.
The 125 Pussywillow
theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print.
All five fan designs (including 125-4) have seal C, which indicates a carving date during the first half of 1934.
Despite the early completion of those wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 125 Pussywillow
theme at least for several months. It was eventually grouped with other winter season themes nearer to the end of the series. However, the 36 Series
design 125 has seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.
On the Fan Series delivery folio for installment eight on November 22, 1934 Rakusan announced pussywillow designs as due to appear in installment nine the following month, December 1934. However, the delivery documents for installment nine have yet to be located, and it is not known if installment nine was actually distributed on time or was delayed. The publications of installment eight in November 1934 and of installment ten in March 1935 constrain the publication of installment nine to one of the three intervening months, December 1934, January 1935, or February 1935; and indicate that the other two of these months had no deliveries. The woodblock prints for installment nine would have been printed during the same month as their distribution.
In that Fan Series announcement Rakusan used the theme title 猫柳に鴫, nekoyanagi ni shigi, 'pussywillow and shorebird'. However, there are no shorebirds in any of the Fan Series designs, and this title is really only appropriate as the title of 36 Series design 125 published at the same time. The only subject common to all of the designs in this theme is the pussywillow, and therefore a more general theme title, 125 Pussywillow, is substituted here. Some of these pussywillow designs were adapted from sketches originally created during the planning of designs 83 and 86 in the preceding 100 Series (see below).
The composition of 125-4 includes several branches of pussywillow. Among them, standing in a body of water suggested by wavy lines, is a little egret on one foot. Light snow (suggested by flecks in the background and on the bird) is still falling. The pussywillows are shown as silhouettes, but the egret is carefully sketched as a fine line drawing. Except for the falling snow which is white only in the ishizuri version, the rest of the composition is painstakingly carved so that the ishizuri version is an exact negative of the original sketch. Notice in the reconstruction that the leg of the egret is dark and the foot light as in life.
The woodblock print of 125-4 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:
125-4 as originally drawn (reconstruction)
Rosegold Pussywillow, Salix gracilistyla
, 猫柳, ねこやなぎ, ネコヤナギ, neko-yanagi
, lit. 'cat-willow' is a common native species in Japan.
The variety name is based on the name for Weeping Willow, Salix babylonica
, 柳, 楊, 楊柳, やなぎ, ヤナギ, yanagi
, which is also used as a general name for any willow, much as in English.
Rakusan was fond of willow motifs and used them in several artworks.
Little Egret, Egretta garzetta, is today usually called 小鷺, こさぎ, コサギ, ko-sagi, lit. 'small heron'.
For the title caption of 100 Series design 2 Rakusan instead used used 白鷺, shira-sagi, lit. 'white-heron', which is a general name for any white egret species.
He also modified it with a rather poetic descriptor, 蓑, mino, 'straw raincloak', a type of old-style-rural rain protector.
This refers to the way the breeding-plumage aigrettes stand out from the backs of the birds, rather like the way the stems stick out from the loose straw bundles used in the crude raincloak.