Handmade Christmas Cards Sent By Famous Artists to Their Friends

Original designs from artists over the years to celebrate the holidays

Philip Guston Christmas card to Elise Asher, 195-?. Elise Asher papers, 1923-1994. Archives of American Art
Milton Avery holiday card to Fred and Adelaide Morris Gardner, not after 1965. Fred and Adelaide Morris Gardner papers, 1916-1978. Archives of American Art
Holiday card design, 195-?. Frederick Hammersley papers, circa 1860s, 1890-2009 Archives of American Art
Jane H. Jones Christmas card to Eugenie Gershoy, 1956 Dec. 14. Eugenie Gershoy papers, 1914-1983. Archives of American Art
Arturo Rodríguez used a postcard from the Louvre to create this Van Gogh-inspired holiday card to Helen L. Kohen, ca. 1980-1999 Archives of American Art
Ed Bisese Christmas card to Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr., 1992. Herbert Waide Hemphill papers, 1776-1998, bulk 1876-1998 Archives of American Art
Helen Frankenthaler created this collage and sent it as a holiday card to artist Theodoros Stamos in 1960. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
Miné Okubo was one of the hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans interned during World War II, later publishing a book of sketches and writings on the period. Here, she turns her artistic skill to a Christmas card made in 1959. Archives of American Art
Kay Sage, an American Surrealist artist and poet, sent this Christmas card to Eleanor Howland Bunce, who was active in the visual arts scene. No date. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
Born in Ohio, Charles Ephraim Burchfield painted evocative water color scenes of nature like this one, a letter sent to Louise Burchfield in 1933. Archives of American Art
Kathleen Blackshear and Ethel Spears, a prominent Works Progress Administration artist in Chicago working in the 1930s, sent this Christmas card to fellow artist Andrew A. Bucci in 1964. Archives of American Art
Alexander Calder borrowed imagery from his Cirque Calder, a wire-sculpture circus, to create this playful card in 1930. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

The head of Hallmark, Donald Hall, is worth an estimated $1 billion, according to Forbes. Founded in 1910, the company has grown into the biggest greetings card manufacturer in the United States and by now, its brand is commonplace during the holiday season.

But Mary Savig and the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art are here to remind you that not all cards come from a store. In her new book, Handmade Holiday Cards from 20th-Century Artists, Savig includes 190 illustrations of the original holiday cards held in the Archives. Some famous names pop up, including Josef Albers, John Lennon and Yoko Ono and Robert Motherwell. Unlike the Hallmark stock on the shelves, these cards weren’t meant to be sold, but were instead just sent between friends to mark a shared occasion.

Read more articles about the holidays in our Smithsonian Holiday Guide here

See more handmade cards here.

Get the latest on what's happening At the Smithsonian in your inbox.