This design is the thirty-fifth 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 35. 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 135, the 135th 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
[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 135 was adapted from 135-0, 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:
|135-0 (original painting on silk, collection of the artist)
Edition I (1935-1941): Like most 36 Series designs 135 has the same signature and seal combination on every copy. Because all documented copies of 135 once looked very much alike, and are often associated with presentation sheets (see below), they are currently all referred to edition I printings.
The darker shading in the original model painting obscures the small fish in the lower right corner. In adapting the woodblock print 135 Rakusan substituted a smooth, even, pale gray bokashi which provides greater design clarity. Unfortunately, on many early copies the pigment used for the bokashi has chemically altered to a darker gray with a grainy texture which again obscures the overall contrast with the shadows and the small fish. The particular edition I copy illustrated as an example above was chosen because its bokashi is unaltered. However, the secondarily added city-name stamp in the upper right corner of this copy may indicate that it comes from one of the later pre-war reprintings. It is possible that these later copies represent an attempt to address the pigment problem. There is as yet no evidence of an edition II reprinting.
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.
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.
135 is the 36 Series
design of the 135 Fish
The 135 Fish theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. Four 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. The remaining Fan Series design has minor seal R whose carving period has yet to be established. The 36 Series design 135 has seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication.
The Fan Series and 36 Series prints of the 135 Fish theme were distributed in mid 1935 in the final installment twelve (of twelve). The series as originally announced would have seen this last installment published in December 1934. However, with documented delays the earliest month it could actually have been delivered is May 1935, and it may well have been even further delayed. Each of the woodblock prints in this theme would have been printed in the same month as their distribution.
Although the delivery documents for installment twelve remain to be discovered, the delivery documents for installment ten from March 25, 1935 announced the fish designs as what would be expected to be theme 131 to appear the following month, April 1935, in installment eleven. However, all three of the announced themes for installment eleven were actually delayed and not published until installment twelve. After this rearrangement the Fish theme ended up being published as theme 135.
In the delivery documents for installment ten, Rakusan called this theme 魚類, gyo-rui, 'fish, fishes' Including 類, rui, kind; sort; type; class; genus; order; family', implies a general or generic meaning. The theme title also was intended as the title of 36 Series design 135. The Fan Series designs of the 135 Fish theme are unique in that each has a title naming the illustrated fish species which is incorporated into the composition. Because a carp is shown in 135-4, Rakusan's preferred spelling of the name is known and is used in the more specific emended title supplied here. All of the named fish are found in fresh water and are commonly eaten. Several are commercially farmed.
In 135 the shadows of the fish and of the leaves floating on the surface indicate that the water is both clear and evenly shallow, suggesting that the fish may be in a garden pond. Also shown in the composition are wavy lines which, as in other designs in this theme, are meant to show that the fish are alive and swimming in water.
Common (Eurasian) Carp, Cyprinus carpio
, 鯉, たちあおい, コイ, koi
, is an often raised species of freshwater fish.
The Japanese name is used both for the wild and domesticated varieties.
Like goldfish, carp were originally raised for food, and rare color and form mutants among the domesticated stock were selectively bred for decorative purposes.
The English name koi
is borrowed directly from Japanese only in the restricted sense of those decorative carp kept as pets.
Carp is still eaten today including koi stock that does not meet breed standards for pets, but fish kept as pets are not eaten.
Fancy koi varieties are also often called 錦鯉, にしきごい, ニシキゴイ, nishiki-goi
, lit. 'colored carp'.
Japanese Loach (Weather Loach, Weatherfish), Misgurnus anguillicaudatus, 鰌, どじょう, ドジョウ, dojou, is the small fish swimming in the lower right corner.
Although found natively in the wild, loaches are popular and easy aquarium fish and are also farmed for food.
Lesser Water Chestnut, Trapa japonica, 菱, ひし, ヒシ, hishi, lit. 'diamond (shape)', is an aquatic annual plant native to Japan.
It takes its Japanese name from its diamond-shaped leaves which float in a rosette on the surface of the water.
It is closely related to other plants in the same genus called Water Chestnut and Water Caltrop (from the shapes of their edible seeds).
Floating to the right of the middle of the three water chestnut rosettes is a single leaf of a waterlily (family Nyphaeaceae) which cannot be identified further.