Andy Warhol’s Pop Art Christmas Cards

An Andy Warhol Angel 

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“Andy was a Catholic, the ethic ran through his bones/

He lived alone with his mother, collecting gossip and toys/

Every Sunday when he went to church/

He’d kneel in his pew and he’d say/

“It’s just work, all that matters is work.” 

-Lou Reed, from Songs for Drella

 

It’s true. Pop artist Andy Warhol, the legendary, ironically blank scenester, was also a devoutly religious man. He attended church faithfully, volunteered in soup kitchens, and made a late body of Christian themed works that have been largely overlooked by the hostilely secular art world.

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Warhol Meets Pope John Paul II, 1980 

As a person of faith, Warhol used his artistic skills to celebrate Christmas. Before Andy found fame in the gallery scene, he was a successful commercial artist. From 1956-1962 he produced box sets of Christmas cards sold by Tiffany’s. He rendered these as quirky doodles, far removed from the slick screen  prints he’s known for.

Here are just a few examples of Warhol’s holiday spirit.

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Christmas

Christmas

Christmas Cards 

 

As I state in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, Warhol left a mixed legacy:

“As the prophet of the Postmodern, Warhol was another harbinger of the mess of a culture we are currently slogging through. It’s not his fault. Do you blame a reporter for the news he covers? The cultural traits Warhol portrayed didn’t start with him. He fulfilled the role of the artist giving us foresight into the culture’s momentum.”

1978: Truman Capote and Andy Warhol Celebrate the Season

Maybe a Little Too High Spirited 

But I like to think behind the facade of celebrity and detachment, there was the real human Andy, who celebrated Christ’s birth with sincere joy.

Merry Christmas!

An Andy Warhol Nativity 

 

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ARTISTS: Salvador Dali’s Surreal Christmas Cards

Ho Ho Ho my Gosh; ‘Tis the Season for Surrealism 

In 1960, before the visuals arts had withdrawn into their current status of hostile, insular irrelevance, greeting card benchmark Hallmark had an idea to bring people some culture for Christmas. 50 artists were featured on Hallmark Christmas cards, with the noble intention of sharing some Modern masters with the mass market. Along with staples like Norman Rockwell and Currier and Ives, more avant-garde figures like Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Paul Cezanne were presented.

One of the artists recruited was Surrealist Salvador Dali. The choice was not as strange as it might seem. He had already created a Christmas image for the cover of Vogue in 1948.

Dali’s Christmas Vogue Cover

For a flat fee of $15,000.00 and promises of complete artistic control, Dali produced a series of Yuletide images. Unfortunately, the executives at Hallmark decided he went a little TOO cultural for the tastes of the time, and only a few of his tamer paintings were used.

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Two of the Dali Images used: Tame compared to the others

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But now, thanks to the magic of the internet, we can enjoy some surrealism for the season. Here are some of Salvador Dali’s unused Christmas card pictures.

 

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Merry Christmas!

 

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EXPLOITS: The Christmas Tree Painting

Tree Detail 3

Our Christmas Tree: A detail shot from our work-in progress tradition

It started in 2012.

It’s a little hard when you are adults, with no kids around, to find the proper level of Christmas decorating for the home.

To not decorate at all would be bleak. It would be an unhappy break from a lifetime cycle of excitement and fun around the holidays, as well as missing out on commemorating one of the definitive miraculous events in human history.

But to go for an 8 foot live tree with all the trimmings and a giant outdoor display seems excessive. There are other complications as well. Our cats were too intrigued by even the small artificial tree we used for a few years, leading to some unfortunate episodes. And we don’t even have an outlet on the outside of our house to plug lights into.

In 2012 my wife Michele Bledsoe came up with a great solution. We were both painters-why not make a painting of a Christmas tree that we could bring out for the holiday?

Inspired, we made a quick trip to the art supply store and got to work.

Tree paint 1

2012: I began with the star and some vague spots of color as a base coat for ornaments

Michele’s sister Sherry Weiss was living with us at the time, and joined in creating the tree and decorations. The idea was just to roughly block in the shapes at first. Then, every year at Christmas time when we bring out the painting, we would continue to work on it.

Tree paint 2

Sherry and Michele, adding details

Michele took on the role of clean up and enhancement. Since her paintings are so precise and intricate, she excels at getting images resolved.

Tree paint 3

2015 marks our fourth season of painting on the tree. There’s still room to add new ornaments, and plenty of opportunities to refine the elements we’ve already depicted. We haven’t even touched the background yet. I imagine we will be working on this the rest of our lives.

When the tree is not on one of our easels, we put it on our family room floor, surrounded by presents. It’s been a wonderful tradition. And the cats don’t try to climb it.

Merry Christmas!

Tree

“Christmas Tree” acrylic on canvas 36″ x 24″

Michele Bledsoe, Richard Bledsoe, Sherry Weiss