Take a look at how artists celebrated the holidays — by creating greeting cards that truly were first edition works of art.
An exhibit of some 200 of these cards by Northwest artists now can be seen at Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds. The exhibit covers creations from 1909 to 1990.
The holiday card tradition began the year the museum opened, in 2015, and has continued every year since.
“You can see how much people love these,” said museum curator David Martin. “They’re really personal — beautiful and peaceful — and something that’s really nice.”
The museum’s collection of holiday cards has grown each year since the first exhibit.
“People went crazy over the show and started saying, ‘Oh, I have one of these,’” Martin said.
At first, the donations came in ones and twos. This year, the museum received several large donations of 100 or more of the Christmas cards to add to its collection.
One of those donations came from the family of John Matsudaira. His 1961 Christmas card, “Nocturnal Landscape With City Lights,” is included in this year’s exhibit.
The collection contained not only the cards he had created, but those made by many of his friends.
“There were cards I have never seen before,” Martin said, some by artists he didn’t know created any holiday cards. “That was really exciting. They’re in perfect condition.”
The children and grandchildren of some of the artists had never seen the cards made by their family member. “It’s kind of a thrill for some of them, too,” he said.
The family’s donation came about when Martin asked if some of Matsudaira’s holiday cards could be scanned for a book that has been published on the museum’s holiday card collection.
The family decided that Matsudaira’s entire collection of cards should be donated to the museum.
“Some of them are actually little paintings, either woodcuts or block prints, that the artists gave to each other when they were friends,” Martin said. “John’s were all miniature paintings.”
An additional set of about 50 holiday cards was donated by the Blakemore Foundation. Artist Frances Blakemore, who attended the University of Washington, was a very active print maker. “She did these fantastic cards she sent to family and friends in Seattle,” created from the 1940s to the ‘70s, Martin said.
Exhibit viewers are often struck by the amount of effort the artists took making the cards, Martin said.
Most of us simply go to the store and buy our Christmas cards. These artists had to carve a woodblock or create a small painting, or etch the metal and print them, he said. “They were very time-consuming projects.”
One card in this year’s exhibit depicts a night scene in black and white. There are mountains in the background. In the sky above them is a star shaped like a cross. There are military-style barracks in the foreground. Cross streets are depicted in a bold white, despite the evening setting.
“It’s kind of chilling to me,” Martin said. “There’s a crucifix star in the sky and the intersection of the streets looks like a big crucifix. It’s so sad.”
The scene, by artist Yukio Morinaga, is of Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, where he and other Japanese Americans were forcibly imprisoned during World War II.
Cascadia’s annual holiday card exhibit is thought to be the only one of its kind in the United States. Martin said the only other similar holiday card exhibit he knows of took place last year at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection near Toronto.
Cascade’s growing holiday card collection led Martin to publish a book this year featuring some of the cards in the collection and information about each artist. The book, “Vintage Christmas Cards by Northwest Artists,” is on sale in the museum’s store for $20.
The Christmas card exhibit “means a lot to a lot of people,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of stress the world right now. Seeing things like this makes people happy.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
The annual exhibit “Vintage Christmas Cards by Northwest Artists” continues through Jan. 26 at Cascadia Art Museum, 190 Sunset Ave. S, Edmonds. The museum is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission for members and students is free, adults $10, active military and seniors 65 and up $7, and families (two adults and up to 3 children under 18) $25. More at 425-336-4809 or www.cascadiaartmuseum.org.
Holiday cards with Mona Fairbanks
Local artist Mona Fairbanks will be teaching holiday card printmaking from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 7. This family workshop is free. Learn a process that is easy to do at home and can be used as a single special card or reproduced to meet all of your card needs. More at 425-336-4809 or www.cascadiaartmuseum.org/events-grid