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Woodblock Print Winter Cards
Currently seven winter card designs are known, although it remains possible that there could be additional designs. The designs cover a wide variety of styles and subjects, but all include snow. The initial publication dates are documented for the first four designs in 1935, 1936, and 1937, and all four were commissions facilitated by Masao Morikawa (see below). The other three designs were also likely Morikawa commissions, but their sequence ordering and dating is conjectural. Almost certainly they were produced for one or more of the winters of 1938, 1939, and 1940.
WC1 and WC2 are each known in two contemporary versions distinguished only by secondarily added or associated texts. WC3A and WC3B have related numbers because they were published in the same year and not because the designs are otherwise related. WC4 and WC5 are each known from two sequential editions. Only one version of WC7 is known.
The prototype paintings for all but one of the designs have not yet been located. WC2 was produced from the original painting LK3-12 (see section below). Because that painting is simultaneously both a member of its painting series and also the prototype for a woodblock print, it has two numbers. In its role as a woodblock print model it takes its other numbering from its woodblock print, WC2-0. WC2 is also the only winter card in a horizontal format; all of the others are vertical.
Producing the winter card designs required many fewer impressions than Rakusan's typical woodblock prints. Therefore, after World War II and well into the early 1950s Rakusan was able to reprint many small batches of these designs for sale and to present as guest gifts. WC2 and WC3B are not currently known to have ever been reprinted, but the other designs with more familiar subjects were reprinted many times and in large numbers.
All of the winter card woodblock prints are very small. Including margins the prints measure approximately 12 x 14 cm (4.5 x 5.5 inches). The prints were distributed tipped onto the fronts of various card stocks. The earlier card stock was a plain white or cream-colored paper, with or without an embossed, recessed well for the print. Later post-war card stock was one of two fancy papers with inclusions within the paper and/or overprinted brocade patterns. A typical interior of the later cards showing the later woodblock-printed greeting and authorship statement is also included here.
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Original Paintings Intended for Winter Cards
Towards the end of 1935 Rakusan Rakusan had still been unable to obtain backing for his next double-oban woodblock print series. He therefore began to create smaller and simpler versions of some of his landscape paintings in hopes of attracting funding for a less ambitious series. In 1935 Rakusan friend and patron, Mr. Masao Morikawa, commissioned Rakusan to produce a small woodblock print suitable for the cover of a winter holiday greeting card. The success of this venture encouraged Rakusan to produce a small number of paintings the following year from which Morikawa would select a design for 1936. The first ten of these paintings were all of familiar Kyoto landmarks.
Morikawa was the Secretary to the President of Doshisha University, and in the end he requested an eleventh design showing a new university building. The eleven paintings were executed on paper of roughly chuban size, using a limited palette of primarily black, brown, blue, and white inks. The design of the eleventh painting was modified to give more prominence to the building, and was recast in polychrome. The resultant twelfth painting was used as the model for the much smaller winter card print. Regrettably, none of the other paintings are known to have had corresponding woodblock prints.
All twelve paintings remained in Rakusan's personal collection. Since they were never intended for distribution as paintings, none are marked with signatures or seals.
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