What is considered the world’s first Christmas card, by illustrator John Callcott Horsley, portrays an entirely different scene from the contemporary cards on display in Rainforest Arts’ Have and Artful Christmas exhibit.
Have a Merry Christmas!
What images do those words conjure up for you. Perhaps a happy family gathered round the groaning board? Or kind citizens comforting the poor with Christmas treats and warm blankets to keep off the seasonal hunger and cold.
Those were the scenes depicted by John Callcott Horsley ‘illustrator, and designer of the first Christmas card’, according to Wikipedia. He was commissioned to do the work by Sir Henry Cole, widely credited with ‘introducing the world’s first commercial Christmas card in 1843’.
What were the factors that made Christmas cards both popular and possible?
The answer to both those questions is rooted in the Industrial Revolution. People became much more mobile as that era gathered steam, meaning family and friends were often located farther and farther apart. At the same time postage became relatively quick and affordable. That made it possible for Christmas cards as a quick means of conveying love and good cheer to be a huge commercial success.
At the same time, printing presses became faster, more efficient and affordable, so companies like greeting card giant Hallmark could fill the demand.
Fast forward to the 20th and 21st centuries and the digital, social and cultural revolutions that have remade the world have also transformed Christmas card content and production. In a nutshell: the advent of digital design programs and ink jet home printers has made it possible for people to produce their own cards; and the remaking of social and cultural boundaries is constantly changing the messages they want to convey.
A great sampling of the creativity and diversity of contemporary season’s greetings is on display at Rainforest Arts during its Have an Artful Christmas exhibit. So be sure to take a spin through the card rack as well as enjoying the diversity and talent of local and Vancouver Island artists on the gallery’s walls and plinths.
Rainforest arts is located at 9781 Willow Street in Chemainus, hours are 11am to 4pm daily. Visit RainforestArts.ca for more information.