Hall’s interest in these artist collaborations extended beyond his admiration for their work or the success they’d bring the company. “He also felt that this was a really a great way to bring art to everybody’s homes, through reproductions,” says Bradbeer. “In the 1940s and 1950s, not everyone had access to a great art museum, so believed that having fine art on greeting cards would make it more accessible. Yes, the card was a form or communication, but it was also a gift in itself.” Indeed, over the years, Bradbeer has received notes from numerous individuals asking for the stories behind the Rockwell cards their families have kept for generations.
That year, Hall also licensed the rights to several paintings by
, a self-taught artist from upstate New York who began her practice at the age of 78. “I think J.C. was really drawn to her panoramic scenes of country life, the changing seasons, rural customs, because it reminded him of growing up in small-town Nebraska,” explains Bradbeer. “It was also imagery that Americans really responded to, at the time.” In the process of forging the series of cards with Moses, J.C. also befriended her—and introduced her to Rockwell. Rockwell visited her on her 88th birthday, which resulted in a portrait of Moses sitting at her drawing table. These days, the painting hangs in Hallmark’s headquarters, as part of its permanent collection.
A few years later, in 1952, Hallmark embarked on another important partnership with hot New York artist
, whose satirical, whimsical drawings had risen to fame from the pages of The New Yorker
. “He had already designed several Christmas cards for MoMA
, but their distribution was limited to people who could visit the museum,” says Bradbeer. “Steinberg was excited about reaching a larger audience.” The artist proceeded to make several visits to Kansas City over the course of seven years, and produced 120 original Santa drawings in the process. True to Steinberg’s style, the resulting cards are mischievous, playful, and inspired. They show Mr. Claus napping in hammock strung up in a Christmas tree; skating loop-de-loops on a frozen pond, with his reindeer buddy; or wearing pajamas and holding the hands of his dog and cat friends.
While the Steinberg cards have been retired for many years, they’ve remained in the archive as inspiration for contemporary designs. “Our in-house artists are really looking at them again. You might even see them reappear on the shelves next winter,” explains Bradbeer.
The same goes for Dalí’s designs, too. “Greeting card buyers might be ready for them again,” Bradbeer continues. “We’re talking about re-releasing them next winter, too. It would be great to see those cards again, and give them a new life.” This writer, for one, would scoop them up in a second.