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Miné Okubo, “To Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi” (1959), Hand-colored print, Bob Stocksdale and Kay Sekimachi papers, 1937–2004, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

There are few small pleasures more delightful than opening the mailbox to find a holiday card from a friend. It doesn’t matter if it was mass produced in a factory and sold in bulk at Costco; it still has an inexplicable ability to make us feel appreciated. Send a homemade card, though, and chances are pretty good this pack rat will never throw it away.

That’s what makes perusing the unusual cards in Handmade: Artists’ Holiday Cards from the Archives of American Art at the Morgan Library such a joy. Drawing from the Smithsonian’s collection, the show includes 60 examples of cards made by artists like Helen Frankenthaler, Ad Reinhardt and Philip Guston. Each reflects the unique personality of its maker. Claes Oldenburg’s playful 1965 card to curator Samuel Wagstaff depicts a fat pig spouting the gobbled greeting “Macky Exmouse,” while Julia Thecla’s undated card to Katherine Kuh features a fuzzy snowman offering up “a year’s supply of happiness” — proof that a little creativity mixed with thoughtfulness can go a very long way.

Ad Reinhardt, “Unsent” (c. 1945), Relief print, Ad Reinhardt papers, 1927–1968, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, © 2014 Estate of Ad Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Philip Guston, “To Dorothy Miller” (c. 1972), Watercolor, Dorothy C. Miller papers, c. 1912–92, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, © 2014 The Estate of Philip Guston

Alexander Calder, “Halo Everybody Handmade holiday card, unsent” (1929), Relief print, Alexander Calder papers, 1926–1967, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, © 2014 Calder Foundation, New York/ Artists Rights Society (ARS). New York

Claes Oldenburg, “To Samuel Wagstaff” (c. 1965), Photomechanical reproduction of a drawing, Samuel Wagstaff papers, 1932–85, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution © Claes Oldenburg

Don Baum, “To Kathleen Blackshear” (c. 1965), Collage of clippings and ink, Kathleen Blackshear and Ethel Spears papers, 1920 -90, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Saul Steinberg, “To Dorothy Miller” (1945), Ink on paper, Dorothy C. Miller papers, c. 1912–1992, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, © The Saul Steinberg Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Kay Sage, “Holiday card to Eleanor Howland Bunce” (1958), Typescript, Eleanor Howland Bunce papers, 1935–1982, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, © 2014 Estate of Kay Sage / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Julia Thecla, “Holiday card to Katharine Kuh” (undated), Mixed media collage, Katharine Kuh papers, 1908–94, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Elsa Schmid, “To Dorothy Miller” (1959), Photograph adhered to paper, Dorothy C. Miller papers, c. 1912, 1992 Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Henry Pearson, “To Dorothy Miller” (1968), Screen print, Dorothy C. Miller papers, 1912–1992, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

9 replies on “When Artists Make Holiday Cards”

  1. I love these! And having gotten a bunch of great ones from artist friends over the years, it’s so nice to see these also. Happy holidays!

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