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Winter Cards

Woodblock Print Winter Cards

"WC4" (edition I)

"WC4" (edition II)

"WC5" (edition I)

"WC5" (edition II)

WC1935 (edition I)

WC1935 (edition II)

WC1936-0 (LK3-12)

WC1936 (Yuasa version)

WC1936 (Morikawa version)

WC1937A (Morikawa)

WC1937B (Yuasa)


later inside greeting

Seven basic winter card designs are now known, and it still remains possible that there could be additional designs. The 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 year for that design. Although the sequence ordering and dating for the other three winter cards is conjectural, there are indications that the dated cards may 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 possible that at least one more design, "WC7", was also a Morikawa commission for one of the winters from 1938 to 1941.

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

Only one prototype painting for a winter card design 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. Because their subjects were unfamiliar locations, WC1936 and WC1937B were of limited popular interest and were likely never reprinted. However, the other five designs had wider appeal and 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. Some early-distributed winter cards were tipped onto larger sheets of plain white or cream-colored paper double-folded into quarters. All six of the vertical-format winter cards are also found with a similar paper embossed with a recessed well for the print. This embossed card stock has narrow side margins and wide top and bottom margins which suggest the proportions of a hanging scroll mounting. There are some examples of plain card stock without embossing. Later post-war card stock was typically 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












LK3-12 (WC1936-0 )

By the end of 1935 Rakusan had still been unable to obtain backing for his next large-format 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 or other personal commissions.

In 1935 Rakusan friend and patron Mr. Masao Morikawa had used a small Rakusan woodblock for his winter holiday greeting card. 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. Rakusan clearly hoped Morikawa would select another winter card design for 1936 from among these paintings.

Morikawa was the Secretary to the President of Doshisha University, and in late 1936 he instead requested an additional eleventh painting showing a newly renovated university building. A twelfth painting, modified from the eleventh one to give more prominence to the building and to include many more colors, was then used as the model for the much smaller woodblock print which became the WC1936 winter card. Regrettably, none of the other paintings are known to have had corresponding woodblock prints.

These 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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