Exhibit | October 17, 2014

The Morgan Marks the Season with an Exhibit of Holiday Cards by Modern Artists

New York, NY, October 17, 2014—The Morgan Library & Museum will celebrate the 2014 holiday season with an entertaining exhibition of rarely-seen handmade cards created by twentieth-century artists for their friends and family. Drawn from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, the exhibition will include nearly sixty seasonal cards made by such important artists as Helen Frankenthaler, Milton Avery, Alexander Calder, Ad Reinhardt, Philip Guston, and Saul Steinberg. The exhibition will open on November 21 and will be on view through January 4, 2015. 

Spanning the decades from the 1920s to the 2000s, the works in the exhibition are tangible reminders of meaningful relationships among friends and colleagues, many of whom formed bonds through the practice of making art. They succeed in evoking romance, peace, humor, and joy in the most personal of ways—directly from the hand of the artist.

As might be expected, the media represented are as varied as the artists’ individual styles, ranging from watercolors and pencil drawings to collage and stencil. Some of the cards reflect events or changes in the maker’s life. For example, a 1972 card by Philip Guston depicts an ordinary household scene during a period of his life when he had moved away from his celebrated Abstract Expressionist style to engage a more figurative approach.

Many of the cards in the exhibition are playful greetings between friends in the art world. Claes Oldenburg’s holiday sketch to art curator Samuel Wagstaff, dated ca. 1965,  features a prominent pig spouting some kind of gibberish, perhaps Oldenburg’s take on pig Latin.

For some artists, card making was an annual tradition. American painter Kay Sage met her husband, the French Surrealist Yves Tanguy, in Paris, and they moved to New York with the onset of World War II. Once in the States, they collaborated on creating annual holiday cards for close friends until Tanguy’s sudden death in 1955. Sage continued the practice in the following years and the exhibition includes an inventive card that she created in 1958 with the aid of a typewriter and different color ribbons. 

The exchange of holiday cards became a phenomenon in the United States in the late nineteenth century and continues today. Commercially produced in great quantities with recurring themes, cards became a forum for the expression of friendship and fellowship. Handmade: Artists’ Holiday Cards from the Archives of American Art explores these timeless sentiments with delightful and often startling originality. But the artists represented here eschewed the effortlessness of the mass-produced and turned instead to a more intimate form of expression—small-scale works of art created for particular friends and loved ones.

All of the items on view in the exhibition are from the collection of Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. Founded in 1954, the Archives fosters advanced research through the accumulation and dissemination of primary sources, unequaled in historical depth and breadth, that document more than two hundred years of our nation’s artists and art communities.

Online Engagement: Handmade Holiday Cards 

Keeping with the spirit of the season, the Morgan encourages visitors to share their own handmade holiday card creations. The general public is invited to post their creations using #MorganHandmade to tag their works on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Participants will be eligible to win a copy of the exhibition catalogue, Handmade Holiday Cards from 20th-Century Artists.

Public Programs

For Family

Say It With Your Art: Season’s Greetings Card Making

Using beautiful papers and exquisite art materials, educator and book and paper artist Stephanie Krause will lead children in the creation of unique holiday greetings cards. This program coincides with the exhibition Handmade: Artists' Holiday Cards from the Archives of American Art.

Appropriate for ages 6-12.

Tickets: $6 Adults; $4 for Members; $2 for Children

Saturday, November 22, 2014, 2-4 p.m.

For Family

Winter Family Day

This year's annual Winter Family Day celebrates the Morgan's unique collection of medieval illuminated images and Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Scrooge, Cratchit, and the Ghost of Christmas Present will sweep families into a whirlwind of exuberant fun. Come join this merry bunch and enjoy a creative craft workshop, strolling characters, and our exclusive collection of literary costumes for children to model.

Appropriate for ages 3-12.

Free with museum admission.

Sunday, December 7, 2014, 2-5 p.m.


Caroling at the Morgan

Traditional and popular holiday music will be performed throughout the Morgan by singers from Mannes College The New School for Music.

Free with museum admission. No tickets or reservations required.

Friday, December 12, 2014, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Sunday, December 14, 2014, 3-5 p.m.

Friday, December 19, 2014, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Sunday, December 21, 2014, 3-5 p.m.

Organization and Sponsorship

This exhibition is made possible by a gift in honor of Kook Dong Pae and Chan Eai Pae. It was organized by Mary Savig, Curator of Manuscripts at the Archives of American Art, and coordinated by Christine Nelson, Drue Heinz Curator at the Morgan Library & Museum. 

The programs of the Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

The Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, more than a century after its founding in 1906, the Morgan serves as a museum, independent research library, music venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. In October 2010, the Morgan completed the first-ever restoration of its original McKim building, Pierpont Morgan’s private library, and the core of the institution. In tandem with the 2006 expansion project by architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan now provides visitors unprecedented access to its world-renowned collections of drawings, literary and historical manuscripts, musical scores, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books, photography, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets.

General Information

The Morgan Library & Museum

225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016-3405




Tuesday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; extended Friday hours, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The Morgan closes at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. 


$18 for adults; $12 for students, seniors (65 and over), and children (under 16); free to Members and children 12 and under accompanied by an adult. Admission is free on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is not required to visit the Morgan Shop, Café, or Dining Room.