Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
||+ Seal B2
[The first documented use of seal B2 is on the two 1937 winter cards. It is the bottom half of seal B used as an independent seal.]
[For illustration of seals, see the Seals article.]
This woodblock print was modeled on an original painting on paper about two or three times larger whose current location is unknown.
Rakusan produced two winter cards for the 1937 season, and both were published at about the same time.
Both designs were created as special commissions for Mr. Masao Morikawa.
Mr. Morikawa was the Secretary to the President of Doshisha University in Kyoto.
He was both a long-time friend and an important and influential patron.
The 1937 winter card commissioned for his personal use is arbitrarily designated WC1937A, and the one he ordered for Doshisha University President Yuasa is WC1937B.
The original distribution of the print of WC1937A was on the cover of a preprinted and embossed winter holiday greeting card sent by Morikawa to his Western friends and professional contacts.
On the inside of the single-folded 1937 card stock Morikawa added a holiday greeting and description which was machine-printed in red ink. Since Rakusan had no machine-printing facilities of his own, the text would have been pre-printed by a commercial printer and then brought to Rakusan to attach the print to the cover.
This text provided the title used here since no identification or other printing appears on the print itself, apart from the signature and seal combination.
On the right side is embossed a mon-like trefoil of a stylized plum blossom, below which is machine-printed:
THE SEASON’S GREETINGS
On the left side this description is machine-printed:
THIS PRINT WAS DONE BY RAKUSAN TSUCHIYA (土屋楽山 [Tsuchiya Rakuzan]) REPRESENTING ARASHIYAMA, ONE OF THE SCENIC BEAUTIES OF KYOTO.
RAKUSAN IS ONE OF THE FEW LIVING ARTISTS WHO ARE DEVOTING THEIR LIVES TO BLOCK PRINTING.
HAVING STUDIED PAINTING FOR MANY YEARS UNDER SEIHO TAKEUCHI, THE LEADING ARTIST OF JAPAN TODAY, RAKUSAN HAS COMPLETED A SERIES OF ONE HUNDRED JAPANESE BIRDS AND FLOWERS, 1½ X 1 FT. IN SIZE.
BESIDES PAINTING THE ORIGINAL, RAKUSAN HIMSELF CARVES THE BLOCKS, AND DOES THE PRINTING.
THIS PROVES HIS EXCEPTIONAL TALENT. HIS REGULAR PRINT IS USUALLY THE PRODUCT OF ONE HUNDRED AND EIFTY [sic] PROCESSES OF HAND PRINTING.
EVEN AS SIMPLE AS THIS ONE, IT HAS TO BE GONE OVER NEARLY TWENTY TIMES.
THE MORIKAWAS FEEL FORTUNATE TO CONSIDER THEMSELVES AS CLOSE FRIENDS OF THIS TALENTED ARTIST.
In addition to identifying the location used here as the title, this text is important also for mentioning the approximate number of printing impressions used to produce this and other designs.
This winter card design was reprinted and sold or given away in large numbers after World War II.
Although printed from the same wooden blocks as the 1937 original, in many of the postwar print runs Rakusan muted the colors, as illustrated above.
However, he did not alter the signature and seal markings as an edition marker.
Unfortunately, WC1937A is one of the several Rakusan woodblock prints made using white pigments containing lead white. On many copies of these prints (including the example at top left) some originally white-printed areas have chemically altered to a medium gray color. This chemical change has not affected all of the white areas on this example, and it is most clearly seen in the overprinted falling snow. (Compare the other example at top right where the falling snow has remained white.)
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Doshisha Archives Center, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan; [not illustrated online]
嵐山, Arashiyama, is a popular scenic area just west of Kyoto.
Its famous bridge is called 渡月橋, togetsu-kyou
, ‘Moon Crossing Bridge’, often redundantly rendered in English as "Togetsukyo Bridge".
First erected over a thousand years ago, the bridge structure has been replaced many times over the centuries.
Rakusan typically populated his landscapes with representations of older traditional styles and customs which by his lifetime were already vanished or vanishing. For example, although the current bridge was completed in 1934 (three years before Rakusan created this design), Rakusan deliberately depicted an older version. (In fact the supports under the bridge in WC1937A do not match those of the immediately preceding version of the bridge either.)
The river changes names on either side of the bridge.
As it emerges from its scenic gorge, 保津川, hozu-gawa, Hozu River, becomes 大堰川, ooi-gawa, Oi River, as far as the bridge.
Downstream from the bridge and for several kilometers before joining a larger river, it is 桂川, katsura-gawa, Katsura River.