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Winter Cards

Woodblock Print Winter Cards

"WC4" (version 1)

"WC4" (version 2)

"WC5" (edition I)

"WC5" (edition II)


WC1936-0 (LK3-12)

WC1936 (Yuasa version)

WC1936 (Morikawa version)

WC1937A (Morikawa)

WC1937B (Yuasa)


later inside greeting

Seven winter card designs are now known, and it still remains possible that there could be additional designs. The seven designs cover a wide variety of styles and subjects, but all include snow. They were intended to be tipped onto card stock and sent as winter holiday greeting cards.

Early distribution dates are securely documented for four of the seven designs. Those designs were sent out in 1935, 1936, and 1937; and each of their assigned identification numbers includes the distribution date for that design. Although the sequence ordering and dating for the other three winter cards is conjectural, there are indications that the dated cards actually fall in the middle of the temporal sequence, and the current arrangement of images in this gallery reflect that. The three undated winter cards retain their arbitrary legacy numbering temporarily. At least three (if not all four) of the dated designs were commissions facilitated by Masao Morikawa (see below). It is likely that at least one more design, "WC7", was also a Morikawa commission for one of the winters of 1938, 1939, or 1940.

WC1935 and WC1936 are each known in two contemporary versions distinguished only by secondarily added or associated texts. The letters A and B distinguish the two winter cards published in the same year, WC1937A and WC1937B. "WC4" and "WC5" are each known from two sequential versions or editions. Only one version of "WC7" is known.

Only one of the prototype paintings the winter card designs has been located. WC1936 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, WC1936-0. WC1936 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. WC1936 and WC1937B are not currently known ever to have been reprinted, but the other designs featuring popular tourist destination 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.

[Click on the thumbnail images to bring up enlargements and design details. The paintings sections are currently under construction. Subpages for items marked with [*] not yet available.]

Original Paintings Intended for Winter Cards












LK3-12 (WC1936-0 )

By the end of 1935 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 1935-1936 Rakusan created ten small paintings of familiar Kyoto landmarks in winter. The paintings were executed on paper of roughly chuban size, using a limited palette of primarily black, brown, blue, dark green, and white inks.

In 1935 Rakusan friend and patron Mr. Masao Morikawa used a small Rakusan woodblock for his winter holiday greeting card, and Rakusan clearly hoped Morikawa would select another winter card design for 1936. Morikawa was the Secretary to the President of Doshisha University, and in late 1936 he requested an eleventh design showing a newly renovated university building. The design of the eleventh painting was eventually 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.

[Section currently under construction. Subpages for items marked with [*] not yet available.]

© 2012 (revised 2015, 2018) Dr Michael J P Nichols

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