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The Art of Season’s Greetings 9: Religion and the Theatre

(Added 22 December 2008)

“While the majority of painters have shown a preference for glimpses of Canadian landscapes, the traditional subjects, usually utilized for greeting cards, are not neglected in this series.”

Religious iconography was not common amongst the cards of the Canadian Artists Series. However, this card by Group of Seven member F.H. Varley likely depicting Joseph fleeing to Egypt with the Christ child is one of the exceptions. Likewise, Group of Seven member J.E.H. MacDonald also created religious imagery in some of his designs for the Series. Writing about the Canadian Artists Series for Canadian Homes and Gardens magazine in 1926, Fred Jacob described MacDonald’s religious pictures as “delicate designs” in contrast to the rugged landscapes. In particular, MacDonald’s religious cards were linked to a theatrical production. Jacob wrote that MacDonald’s card depicting the Magi worshipping the Christ child, The Starre, I see it Come Againe, was reminiscent of a local Canadian theatre production of The Chester Mysteries, at Hart House Theatre in Toronto; a production he calls “one of the artistic achievements in the history of the community theatre in Canada.” Thus, the religious picture is still considered Canadian content for the Canadian Artists Series cards.

Fred Jacob, “Canada’s Own Christmas Cards,” Canadian Homes and Gardens, (Dec. 1926): 35.

Image: F.H. Varley, Canadian Artists Series, Rous and Mann, Ltd., n.d., Joan Murray Fonds, Library and Archives Canada.

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