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The Art of Season’s Greetings 11: Coutts Painters of Canada Series

(Added 25 December 2008)

But although individual cards may represent a sum which is in every way in keeping with their own ephemeral nature, there is nothing insignificant or ephemeral about the industry which produces them, nor can there be anything insignificant about the influence of their design on the public in general when one thinks in terms of the millions and millions of them which are sold each year. – Paul Arthur, 1958

Besides the Canadian Artists Series, there were other attempts to promote the work of Canadian artists through the medium of the Christmas card. The Coutts’ Painters of Canada series was a short-lived project initiated in 1931 by greeting-card businessman William E. Coutts, again at the urging of A.Y. Jackson. By contrast with the widely inclusive Canadian Artists Series, the Painters of Canada Series focused on the Group of Seven painters and their contemporaries, and consisted of carefully selected the work of thirty artists for representation in the cards. For this series, they silk-screened original commissioned oil paintings the size of greeting cards. It did not last long as it did not do well financially. Journalist Michael Mitchell wrote that the reason A.Y. Jackson continued to initiate these commercial projects was that, “He detested the cards of the period, feeling that their rigidly realistic treatments of Christmas themes and idealized winter scenes were sentimental and old-fashioned.”

Paul Arthur, “Recent Christmas and New Year’s Greeting Cards by Canadian Artists,” Canadian Art, 15 (Autumn 1958): 288.

Michael Mitchell, “Season’s Greetings from the Group of Seven,” The Globe and Mail – Weekend Magazine, (Dec. 2, 1978): 16.

Image: A.J. Casson, Through Winter Trees, n.d., Coutts Painters of Canada Series, Joan Murray Fonds, Library and Archives Canada. Inside inscription reads: “With all kind thoughts at this Christmas Season and best wishes for your happiness in the New Year.”

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