CULTURE & ARTS
12/12/2013 09:18 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Beautiful Handmade Holiday Cards From Your Favorite 20th Century Artists

Even your favorite 20th century artists have a soft spot for the winter holiday season. Alexander Calder, Robert Indiana, Philip Guston -- they were all enticed by the snowflakes and festive cheer, enough to produce a series of handmade holiday cards that are currently on view at The Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.

calder

Alexander Calder, unsent, 1929. Alexander Calder papers, 1926-1967. Archives of American Art,Smithsonian Institution.

The cards not only reveal how famous artists like Calder and company imagined the holidays -- mostly Christian-themed images of screen printed Christmas trees, watercolor reindeer and etched angels -- but also how art and commercialism interacted in the mid to late 1900s. These handcrafted pieces represent a version of "affordable art" that allowed admirers the chance to own a work by Robert Motherwell or Josef Albers at a reasonable price, and provided the artist with an income opportunity when they needed it.

The Smithsonian exhibit, and accompanying book, "Handmade Holiday Cards from 20th-Century Artists," by curator Mary Savig, is just a glimpse into the one-of-a-kind artworks and limited edition series of Christmases past. Captions describe each mini-masterpiece, while writing from Savig compares the card to the artist's overall oeuvre, adding bits of information about some of the recipients of these cards as well. (For example, Philip Guston sent his card to Dorothy Miller!)

hunt

Peter Hunt, unsent, n.d. Peter Hunt papers, 1788–1968. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

Celebrating American art history with a healthy dose of vintage aesthetic, the exhibit is a must-see for the Washington, D.C. crowd. Lucky for those outside the capitol, we have a preview of the cards below. Let us know your thoughts on the works in the comments.

"Handmade Holiday Cards" will be on view at The Smithsonian's Archives of American Art until January 5, 2013.

thecla

Julia Thecla to Katharine Kuh, n.d. Katharine Kuh papers, 1908–1994. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

guston

Philip Guston to Dorothy Miller, ca. 1972. Dorothy C. Miller papers, circa 1912-1992. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

bisese

Ed Bisese to Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr., 1992. Herbert Waide Hemphill papers, 1929–1995. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

hira

UnIchi Hiratsuka to Prentiss Taylor, 1970. Prentiss Taylor papers, 1885-1991. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

sage

Kage Sage to Eleanor Howland Bunce, 1962. Eleanor Howland Bunce papers, 1935-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

creft

José de Creeft to Julian Levi, 1970. Julian E. Levi papers, 1846-1981. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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