Tidings of Comfort and Joy

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Christmas Morning, Breakfast, Horace Pippin (American, b.1888, d.1946), 1945, From the collection of: Cincinnati Art Museum
This work by "outsider" artist Horace Pippin depicts the quaint, quiet moments of Christmas. The festive, colorful tree and floor mats seem in stark contrast to the tiny family and their meager breakfast. The child looks directly out the the viewer, though, suggesting that for him, this is the most special day of the year.
Deer Running in the Snow, Gustave COURBET, c.1856 - c.1857, From the collection of: Artizon Museum, Ishibashi Foundation
Staunch atheist Courbet seems an odd choice for a Christmas album, but the artist's many Realist winter landscapes seem more invigorating than most costly Christmas-time commercials.
Hunters in the Snow (Winter), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565, From the collection of: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Bruegel launched the market viability of secular genre painting in the sixteenth century. He was so immensely popular, that entire careers were made by later artists copying his works. In this detail, he seems to almost invent the standard Christmas card imagery of the modern age. Would it be too sacreligious to say the master was really the precursor to Thomas Kincade?
The Nativity, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, c. 1665-1670, From the collection of: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Nativity is probably one of the most well-known narratives of the Christian tradition. In this intimate chiaroscuro painting of Murillo, the moment seems just between Mary, Joseph, and the infant Christ, with a barely legible cow in the background and angels in the upper register. Painting on obsidian, a precious volcanic rock, Murillo creates a deep black background and engages with the material culture of the Spanish New World.
Opening of the Great Exhibition, 1 May 1851, Eugène Louis Lami, 1851, From the collection of: Royal Collection Trust, UK
Christmas season has increasingly become more and more associated with gift-giving, and, by extension, commercial consumption. Department stores and malls are centers not only of commercial purchases, but also Christmas rituals, like visiting Santa or caroling. Paxton's Crystal Palace, site of the Great Exhibition of 1851, is understood by many historians as the antecedent to modern department store culture with its glass architecture of display and promotion of browsing.
Frozen River with Skaters, Hendrick Avercamp, 1620s, From the collection of: Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
Ice-skating, a pastime that originated with with Dutch in the late middle ages, is often part of holiday outings with friends and family. Avercamp specialized in these winter scenes of skaters, creating scenes that, very much like Rockefeller Center today, feature a mixture of classes alternately gracefully gliding or dangerously wobbling. (Hopefully there were less gaudy proposals on this frozen lake than at 30 Rock.)
Graffito with temple vessels, Unknown, Herodian period, 1st century BCE, From the collection of: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
In this small graffito from the Herodian period in Jerusalem the precious menorah stands as a marker for the treasures of the Jewish temple. Currently associated with the other winter holidays in our culture, during Roman rule the menorah referred to the great riches of the Second Temple, destroyed during the reign of Titus in 70 CE.
The Christmas of those left behind, Angelo Morbelli, 1903 - 1903, From the collection of: Ca' Pesaro - Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna
The Italian Divisionist painter Angelo Morbelli documented a home for the aged in Milan in a socially powerful series of paintings. In this image, we are reminded how the cultural emphasis on family during the holidays is particularly difficult for those without any.
Christmas Trio, Norman Rockwell, 1923, From the collection of: Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA
No holiday collection of images would be complete without Rockwell. Multiple generations partake in Christmas carolling rendered in the artist's intensely realist style. One can almost feel the sting on the boy's rosy cheeks as he belts out the chorus.
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