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Koushisei Ishizuri Gasen [Fan Series]
Rakusan spent the two years between mid 1933 and mid 1935 producing two parallel series of woodblock prints. His decisions to use a different format for each series, and to market the two series separately, obscure the fact that both were actually produced as part of the same project. Because copies of several of the original distribution documents have survived, many of the publication details are known and most of the rest can be reconstructed.
The larger of the two series comprises one hundred eighty fan designs woodblock-printed as negative images using a single impression of black ink. This traditional negative-image printing style is called 石摺(り), ishi-zuri, lit. 'stone-rubbing', from its superficial resemblance to that technique. Rakusan titled this series 篁子生石摺畵選 (篁子生石摺り画選), Koushisei Ishizuri Gasen, lit. 'Koushisei's Stone-rubbing Print Selections', which for convenience is usually called here the Fan Series. The image at the top of this page is this series title in Rakusan's own calligraphy from a woodblock-printed label which was originally applied to the Manila-paper folio envelopes used to deliver the prints. This label reads 篁子生石摺畫選, Koushisei Ishizuri Gasen, reading right-to-left.
The other smaller (but much better known) series consists of thirty-six polychrome woodblock prints which Rakusan called 篁子生畵選 (篁子生画選), Koushisei Gasen, lit. 'Koushisei's Print Selections'. Here that title is generally reserved primarily for the two-series project as a whole, and the polychrome series is informally called the 36 Series. (The 36 Series is discussed and illustrated separately in the immediately preceding gallery.)
The two series were produced and marketed at the same time and have many direct connections. Most importantly, both series are arranged into thirty-six distinct shared-subject groups which were published in the same sequential order (and at the same time) in both series. Rakusan referred to these groups as 畵選 (画選), gasen, 'print selections' (as in the series title). However, this same-subject group which has members in both series is more accurately described as a theme, 画題, gadai (lit. 'print theme'), and in discussions here that terminology has been substituted.
For each of the thirty-six themes Rakusan planned to publish five Fan Series designs (one design in each of five different fan silhouette shapes). He typically first assembled a Fan Series group and then painted the 36 Series design to unite those elements and thereby define the theme subject. The original names Rakusan used for twenty-three of his thirty-six themes (which also served as the individual titles for their 36 Series designs) are documented and have been retained here. Similarly constructed temporary names (taken wherever possible from other Rakusan titles) have been created for the remaining themes until Rakusan's original names can be determined. A few older style names are followed by modern transcriptions enclosed in parentheses.
The Fan Series prints were issued in twelve monthly installments of three themes each, fifteen designs per installment, making up a series total of one hundred eighty prints. (Rakusan referred to these installments as 輯, shuu, 'series', but on this website series is reserved for the larger unit comprising all of the installments.) Distribution to series subscribers of the first installment of Fan Series prints began in January 1934 and was supposed to be completed with a twelfth installment delivered in December 1934. However, due to delays and additional plan modifications, printing and distribution took longer than expected, and at least three monthly deliveries were skipped. As a result, the final twelfth installment could not have been delivered until March 1935 at the earliest. However, subsequent problems could have delayed completion of the series by an additional month or more. Only a single, small, print run of each Fan Series design was ever produced; and all copies are labeled as edition I (even though there are no other editions).
The wooden blocks for each of the Fan Series designs were carved during one of three sequential periods. These periods are characterized and defined by the seal predominately used on newly carved designs. Rakusan had changed his mind about exactly which thirty-six subjects to use as themes only after the wooden blocks for some of the fan prints had already been carved. Not wanting to waste previously prepared material, Rakusan modified the compositions of several of his themes. When he merged two partially completed themes into one, duplication of fan shapes occasionally resulted. This irregularity could require an offsetting omission of other fan shapes in the same installment to be sure that each installment would have exactly fifteen prints. Rakusan was able to accommodate the necessary omissions by not creating designs to infill themes then still lacking designs. (Notes regarding theme irregularities have been included in the gallery below.) During the production of the series were months where no designs appeared as Rakusan revised his planned sequence order and the components of certain themes.
Rakusan tended to devalue all of his monochromatic designs and did not include any of them, including the Fan Series, in his main sequence numbering. Therefore, the original number he used for each of the corresponding 36 Series prints has been modified to identify also the Fan Series members of its theme. The five different fan silhouette shapes have been here assigned the identifying numbers 1 through 5 which are added to the 36 Series number separated by a hyphen. Where two designs of the same fan shape occur in the same theme, one has been arbitrarily designated A, and the other B.
The Fan Series prints were originally sold unbound but tipped onto the same embossed presentation sheets also initially used for the 36 Series designs. Unfortunately, the fan designs were printed on flimsy paper which typically scrunches, creases, and tears easily. As a result, all of the documented collections are missing at least a few designs which were presumably damaged and discarded. Rakusan is believed to have destroyed the original paintings on which the fan designs were modeled, and none are known to have survived.
The Fan Series designs are illustrated below arranged into the thirty-six themes of the series in the order of their publications. For ease of reference each 36 Series design is included here at the end of its theme.
[Click on the thumbnail to bring up a subpage with larger images, additional design details, and reference links.]
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