Christmas Cards Made by Artists
min Read7 February 2024
One of the most cherished Christmas traditions is the exchange of cards, a practice rooted in the early 19th century when John Callcott Horsley made the first Christmas card in 1843. While these cards may hold little monetary value, their significance lies in the joy they bring to both givers and recipients, adorned with vibrant colors and festive scenes. In this article, I’ve selected a collection of some of the most notable Christmas cards created by distinguished artists throughout history.
1. John Callcott Horsley
John Calcott Horsley, an English academic artist, designed the first-ever Christmas card. The idea for the greetings cards did not come from him but from Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. The image shows three narratives, separated by a plant motif frame. The central panel is colorful and depicts the Cole family having a Christmas drink around a table. The other two panels depict scenes of charity, with people offering food and clothes. Overall, the image references the holiday and the joy of giving.
2. Barnett Freedman
Barnett Freedman was a 20th-century English artist. Although he was also a painter, Freedman gained notoriety for his illustrations. He illustrated many famous books of the century, such as Anna Karenina and War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy. He also designed Christmas cards. In the image above, we can see one of the greeting cards made by Freedman in 1950. It is more simple than the first one. On a light blue background decorated with snowflakes, there is an open card with the following message: “To wish you every happiness at Christmas & good fortune in the New Year.”
3. Salvador Dalí
We all know Salvador Dalí for his surrealist artworks, but do you know about his scandalous Christmas cards? In 1959, Dalí was hired by a greeting card company, Hallmark, to make a series of Christmas cards. However, Hallmark didn’t give Dali any suggestions, and he designed them based on his ideas. The artist made Christmas cards that were very avant-garde, with the reinterpretation of the Christmas symbols. For example, in the first image, we see a Christmas tree made of oversized butterflies. Also, in the second image, the birth scene evokes a creepy feeling because of how the Holy Family is portrayed. Their heads are covered, and the angel is even missing his head. Unfortunately, the product line was dropped because the company considered that customers wouldn’t be interested in those greeting cards.
4. Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, the founder of the Pop Art movement and a popular culture fan, loved the Christmas Holiday. Consequently, he designed some Christmas cards while a commercial illustrator, most of them published by Tiffany & Co. In his card, we see a Christmas tree reinterpreted in the artist’s vision. In a monochrome color palette, Andy Warhol combines symbols to form a tree. Neither the color nor the symbols, apart from a few mistletoe leaves, are reminiscent of the classic Christmas.
5. David Hockney
David Hockney is an English contemporary artist, a very influential figure of 20th- and 21st-century art. He works in many art mediums, such as painting, collage, photography, etc. His most well-known artwork is the painting Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures). Moreover, he executed some Christmas cards, one of which could be seen in the picture. At first glance, it seems to have nothing to do with Christmas because the central point is a seascape. But, on a little card on the back, it is written “and a Merry Christmas to all.”
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