This design is the thirty-first 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 31. 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 131, the 131st 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:
||+ Seal B
||+ Seal 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 131 was adapted from 131-0, an actual-size original painting on silk.
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:
|131-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Edition I (1934-1941): Like most 36 Series designs 131 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Although all documented copies of 131 look very much alike, there are actually many small variations in color. So far it has not been possible to use these individual differences to distinguish consistent color morphs, and almost all copies are considered to represent a single version referred to the original edition I printings.
The copy illustrated above is typical of edition I.
Edition II (1948-1955): The copy of 131 in Rakusan's personal 36 Series demonstration set has a secondary Rakusan cursive signature. (Not illustrated.) This association probably indicates that 131 has an edition II form. The scarcity of all edition II copies of suggests that only a single print run of each was ever made sometime during the postwar edition II printing period. Documentation is very limited, and it remains unclear if this possible edition II of 131 can also be identified as a different color and technique morph.
131 is one of only two designs in the 36 Series which show falling rain.
(The other is the immediately following 132 which Rakusan deliberately placed next to 131.)
In both designs the rain and droplets are printed in a silvery ink.
In 131 this same ink is used also on the crabs where it sometimes takes on a bluish hue.
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 in Public Collections:
Edition I: FIne Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation, San Francisco, CA, USA; (1998.131.16) [illustrated online].
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 typically 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.
131 is the 36 Series
design of the 131 Freshwater Crab
The 131 Freshwater Crab theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. Two 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. Another fan design has rare minor seal Q whose carving period remains to be determined, but it is probably also early. Despite the early completion of some of its wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints until the following year. It was eventually grouped into an installment with other summer season themes near the end of the series.
The 36 Series design 131 and the two remaining Fan Series designs have seal B which indicates those designs were carved later and closer to the time of publication.
The Fan Series and 36 Series woodblock prints of the 131 Freshwater Crab theme were distributed in early 1935 in installment eleven (of twelve), but the delivery documents for installment eleven remain to be discovered. The series as originally announced would have seen this installment published in November 1934. However, with documented delays the earliest month it could actually have been delivered is April 1935, and it may well have been even further delayed. The lack of delivery documents means that what Rakusan originally called this theme and titled the 36 Series design 131 is unknown.
It is possible that more than one kind of freshwater crab is illustrated in this theme.
In designs 131-1 and 131-4 the crabs are hairier, but this may be an artistic device to indicate algal growth on the shell.
However, all the crabs included in this theme are definitely freshwater crabs.
(A species of marine crab is also shown in two Fan Series designs of the 131 Shrimp and Clam theme.)
Japanese Freshwater Crab, Geothelphusa dehaani
, 沢蟹, さわがに, サワガニ, sawa-gani
, lit. 'river crab' is a common native species.
These small crabs are eaten and are readily available in markets.
Included in the composition are long leaf blades of an unidentifiable water-loving plant such as a grass, reed, or iris.