The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge
The Spirit of Christmas: Rockwell Paintings from the Hallmark Collection
November 11, 2000 - January 28, 2001
In this holiday season, visitors to the Norman Rockwell Museum will be treated to Norman Rockwell's original paintings of scenes for Hallmark Christmas cards. Among the most popular of his works, and still an enduring part of Hallmark's Christmas line, the 21 paintings from the Hallmark collection of Rockwell artwork were commissioned between 1948 and 1957. (left: Homecoming, ©1949, Hallmark Cards, Inc.)
Joyce C. Hall arrived in Kansas City in 1910 with a couple of shoe boxes filled with postcards. With these, Hall planned to develop a mail-order program by sending packets of postcards to dealers all over the Midwest. Although a few of the dealers simply kept the cards without paying and some sent them back, enough sent money to get the new business off the ground and Hall was on his way. He was convinced, however, that the real market would be for holiday cards with envelopes. His intuition was correct. His new line of greeting cards were so popular that in 1923, Hall, his two brothers and their 120 employees moved into a new six-story plant.
In 1948, a collaboration between Gallery Artists of New York and Hall Brothers, Inc. of Kansas City joined the fifty members of the Gallery Artists group, led by Harry Abrams, with J. C. Hall's greeting card company. Hallmark's Gallery Artists line included works by such artists as Norman Rockwell, Anna Robertson (Grandma) Moses, Salvador Dali and Georgia O'Keeffe. Rockwell's jolly Santas and Grandma Moses' snowy Vermont landscapes became the cornerstone of the Hallmark Christmas line. (left: Trimming the Tree, ©1951, Hallmark Cards, Inc.)
"We are so grateful for the generosity of the Hallmark Company in lending their collection to the museum for this exhibition and allowing us to share these wonderful images with our visitors," said Linda Pero, Curator of Norman Rockwell Collections. 'It is the collaboration between these two extraordinary men, founder J. C. Hall and Norman Rockwell, that made for such a successful and long-lasting holiday tradition."
The combination of Rockwell's artistic talents with Hall's marketing skills led to the popular success of the line. The subjects of the paintings range from Rockwell's traditional Dickensian characters as portrayed in Bob Cratchit and Yuletide Toast to Rockwell's Arlington, Vermont, inspired winter wonderland of Homecoming, to the contemporary 1950s vignettes of Christmas Surprise and Trimming the Tree. (left: Filling the Stockings, ©1954, Hallmark Cards, Inc.)
J. C. Hall's goal for Rockwell's cards, knowing he could count on Rockwell's technical skill, was "that they have plenty of color, reflect the Christmas spirit and are of general enough character so they can be sent by most anybody.
Gem-like, the paintings measure just twice the size of their printed counterpart. Reduction of the image to the actual card size facilitated the printing process and provided an image with good clarity and detail. The images represent some of Rockwell's best-loved work. They are reproduced year after year and have become enduring symbols of the feelings and fantasies that we have come to associate with the spirit of Christmas. (left: Bob Cratchit, ©1946, Hallmark Cards, Inc.)
Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Norman Rockwell Museum
Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.
For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11
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