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.

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