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The Art of Season’s Greetings 4: The Canadian Artists Series Cards

(Added 9 December 2008)

As the market for Canadian-produced Christmas cards opened, a role for Canadian artists emerged in the creation of designs for commercial lines. Printing firms such as Grip, Ltd. and Rous and Mann, Ltd. created art departments in which they hired artists to work. They also initiated specific artist-designed Christmas card series. Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson (1882-1976) was an active instigator of commercial projects to help struggling artists financially, as well as to promote what the Group saw as the new national Canadian school of art, which was based on post-Impressionist interpretations of the landscape. At Rous and Mann, Ltd., along with H.L. Rous, Jackson initiated a project in 1922 called the “Canadian Artists Series.” This series consisted of printed artist-designed Christmas cards, and included submissions from more than one hundred artists a year. The cards were most popular between the First and Second World Wars, and those produced between 1923 and 1928 were created with the innovative Dell’Acqua colour process. This was a stencil technique from France that involved printing an outline of a scene in one colour, and adding watercolour by hand afterwards with a stencil. This method created cards that had the distinct appearance of woodblock prints with simple concepts, flatness and heavy outlines.

Graham W. Garrett, “Canadian Christmas Cards.” Paper held in Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, n.d.

Image: A.Y. Jackson, Canadian Artists Series, Rous and Mann, Ltd., n.d., Naomi Jackson Groves Fonds, Library and Archives Canada, inside inscription reads: “Christmas Greetings and Best Wishes for the New Year / Mr. and Mrs. Merrill Dennison / 91 St. Joseph Street / Toronto.”

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