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.
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.
136-2 is the Fan Series design with fan shape 2 in the 136 Hollyhock theme.
Like all other designs in this series, 136-2 was only produced in a single print run, and few copies are currently documented.
The 136 Hollyhock
theme is one of the many entirely regular themes represented by a complete fan quintet and a color woodblock print. Each of the fan designs in this theme, including 136-2, has seal C which indicates a carving date between the last months of 1933 and the end of the first quarter of 1934. However, the associated 36 Series
design 136 has seal B which indicates a later carving period closer to the time of publication. Despite the early completion of many of its wooden blocks, Rakusan delayed printing and distribution of the prints in what became the 136 Hollyhock
theme until the following year. It was eventually grouped with other summer season themes at the end of the series.
The Fan Series and 36 Series prints of the 136 Hollyhock theme were distributed in mid 1935 in installment twelve (of twelve), making this theme the last one in both series.
The series as originally announced would have seen this final installment published in December 1934. However, with previously 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 Fan Series delivery documents for installment ten from March 25, 1935 announced hollyhock designs as what would be expected to be theme 132 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 Hollyhock theme ended up being published as theme 136. In the installment ten documents Rakusan used the title 立葵, tachi-aoi, 'hollyhock', which was intended both as the theme designation and the title of 36 Series design 136.
At least some of the hollyhock designs in the 136 Hollyhock theme were adapted from among sketches originally created in the late 1920s during the planning of design 13 in the earlier 100 Series (see below).
The composition of 136-2 includes a relatively slender hollyhock bloom spike with several associated leaves. In the center a small, solid colored butterfly sits on the edge of a flower. All of the design elements are rendered as simple line drawings which look equally well as ishizuri or reversed.
The woodblock print of 136-2 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:
136-2 as originally drawn (reconstruction)
Hollyhock, Alcea (Althaea) rosea
, 立(ち)葵, たちあおい, タチアオイ, tachi-aoi
, lit. 'erect mallow', is a familiar garden plant in Japan and around the world.
Hollyhock was first imported into Japan from China hundreds of years ago, and the plant became important in Japanese cultural life.
Many color variations and flower forms have been developed by Japanese breeders.
Rakusan used several kinds of hollyhocks in his artworks.
The small pale butterfly in 136-2 is certainly a member of the family Pieridae (the white and sulfur butterflies),
白蝶, しろちょう, シロチョウ, shiro-chou, lit. 'white butterfly'
(The Japanese collective name includes both the white and the yellow species.
However, the yellow species may be called 黄白蝶, きしろちょう, キシロチョウ, ki shiro-chou, lit. 'yellow white-butterfly'.)
Rakusan's little butterfly would have been either white or yellow in life, and perhaps is intended as a species in one of
the common genera Pieris or Catopsila.
Unfortunately determining the original color or species identification from this monochrome design is likely impossible.