Happy New Year! Have you sent your friends cards decorated with pigs for luck in the coming months? While the pop of champagne has been associated with New Year’s celebrations since the 19th century, much of the contemporaneous Victorian visual symbolism now appears rather strange.
The Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford notes that from the late 19th to the early 20th century, pigs were quite popular as good luck charms in France, England, Ireland, Germany, and Austria. So when postcards became ubiquitous in the late 19th century — helped along by the introduction of stamps that facilitated cheaper mailing as well as a burgeoning print industry in Europe and the United States — the pigs appeared on New Year greetings. As did clovers, horseshoes, and lucky mushrooms, as well as pansies to symbolize that the sender is thinking of the receiver. (The word “pansy” is derivative of the French word for a thought — “pensée” — as the flower petals look a bit like a face in thought.)
Victorian and turn-of-the-20th-century New Year cards also often featured symbols of rebirth, such as butterflies and hatching chicks, as well as winter imagery like snowmen. As collecting them with other ephemera in albums was a popular 19th-century pastime, quite a few survive. And as we’ve previously explored with Victorian Christmas cards (with their murdering frogs and dead birds), things could also get a bit strange as all the visual influences collided, including human faces on tipsy butterflies and pigs eating Christmas tree ornaments. Here are a few from library, museum, and other collections around the web. Cheers to digitization!
In an exhibition that consists of mostly small-scale black and white works on paper, viewer engagement almost magically awakens the sleepy room.
Maria Maea’s All in Time continues an intergenerational conversation and exemplifies the artist’s process, not simply the finished pieces.
The program, along with recently announced visiting critics, will provide long term funding, promote access, and safeguard experimentation for future students of color.
Koestler Arts works with incarcerated people and patients in secure mental health units, aiming to improve their lives through creativity.
Local artists and culture workers are wondering how the arena will impact the arts landscape, including museums and alternative spaces.
Huaca Pintada comprises a rare mixture of elements of two northern Peruvian civilizations.
Lensa AI’s digital avatars have captivated users, but some say the app is stealing from artists and reflects racial stereotypes.
Contemporary art, original sketches, and more explore how the Japanese character sprung from the pages of a manga and became a global cultural sensation.
New research contests the myth that it was Christianity’s opposition to public nudity that led to the decline in large-scale bathing in the late Roman Empire.
An exhibition at San Francisco’s Letterform Archive highlights typography’s role in iconic social movements from the 1800s through the present.
Eleven Contemporary Artists Explore the Meaning of Shelter at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art
Artists collaborate with nonprofit institutions and field experts to examine historical and contemporary determinants of housing and the feelings of safety and connection integral to places of living.
Rocks, ducks, and a self-organized survey of Gingham are some of the things to see right now in four Chicago art galleries.
Three weeks into their strike, part-time professors are escalating their protests, backed by public figures and disgruntled parents.