A collection of cards
The art of Dr. Grenfell is among the cards on display at The Rooms
A small but unique Christmas card col lection entitled “Kind Remembrances and Best Wishes” is on exhibit at The Rooms in St. John’s until the early New Year.
The exhibit is a partnership between The Rooms art gallery and archives divisions.
There are hundreds of Christmas cards in the various collections at The Rooms.
Cards included in the exhibit were created by artists from various parts of the country – from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
Caroline Stone, curator of collec- tions for The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, gave a presentation earlier this month about some cards in the art gallery’s collection. While not all of the cards are included in the exhibit they speak of many traditions passed down through generations in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The cards include three colourful pen drawings by Josephina Kalleo of Nain, Labrador. Kalleo was born in 1920. She died in 1993. She based her images on childhood memories. There are beautiful, vivid drawings of children tobogganing and images of children on a frozen lake with a tree.
Numerous cards by well-known artist Christopher Pratt are also among those in the art gallery’s collection.
One of Pratt’s drawings is of an old-fashioned Christmas wreath with an electric candle in the centre.
“That card is a study for a beautiful painting in quite a large collection,” Stone said.
Several card col lections are housed at The Rooms, including the Memorial University collection. Those cards — the majority of which are Christmas cards — were collected by artist Peter Bell. Bell was cura- tor of the university’s art gallery from 1963-73.
“Peter was a social fellow and had connections all around the world. During the period he was director of the art gallery he exchanged cards with artists and other directors,” Stone said.
While Bell’s silkscreen print entitled “Christmas Card” 1976 is not included in the exhibit, Stone said the card is “a good example of ( Bell’s) artistic motifs — botanical subject matter, bright colours and vibrant composition.”
The oldest card in the exhibit is dated 1882. A colour print, it features a young girl standing next to a Christmas tree. People looking at the card can use their own imaginations to create thoughts that might be running through the child’s mind.
Some of the cards in the exhibit are from the International Grenfell Association (IGA) collection, which is also housed at The Rooms archives division.
The IGA was established in 1912 to support the work of Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell.
Grenfell was born in 1865 and died in 1940.
Information provided by archive staff notes that Grenfell was a “medical missionary dedicated to the establishment and improvement of medical, educational and economic facilities on the Great Northern Peninsula and Labrador.”
The IGA introduced the sale of Christmas cards in 1923.
The oldest cards in the IGA collection are sketches by Grenfell himself: “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” (1927) and “Christmas in the Children’s Ward at St. Anthony Hospital” (1929).
According to Larry Dohey, manager of collections and projects with the provincial archives division, Grenfell designed many Christmas cards for the benefit of his missions, illustrating them in pen, pencil and with his brush.
“The predominant motifs in the design of his Christmas cards are the animals and birds of Northern Newfoundland and Labrador. He often carried a sketch pad with him,” Dohey said.
The cards are currently sold through the IGA Auxiliary at the Curtis Memorial Hospital in St. Anthony.
Dohey says at the heart of the ritual of selecting and sending a Christmas card to a loved one, friend or colleague is acknowledging that the recipient is important in the sender’s life.
“We take the time to choose a card that best captures the relationship that we have with particular people,” he said.