Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

John Callcott Horsley: the designer of the first Christmas card

Marija Georgievska

Every year, people around the world send Christmas cards to their friends and families.

It is a tradition that started in the 19th century and the designer of the first Christmas card was John Callcott Horsley.

John Callcott Horlsey.

John Callcott Horsley.

John Callcott Horsley was an English painter, illustrator, and designer.

Born in London on 29 January 1817, he was the grand-nephew of the English landscape painter Sir Augustus Callcott.

His sister, Mary Elizabeth Horsley, was the wife of the famous British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

He studied painting at the Royal Academy where he met the painter Thomas Webster.

In 1836, he had his first exhibition there called The Pride of the Village.

St. Valentine’s Day by Horsley.

St. Valentine’s Day by Horsley.

His paintings were largely of historical subjects set in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, influenced by the Dutch masters Pieter de Hooch and Vermeer.

He won the first prize in 1843 for his cartoon of “St Augustine Preaching” in the competition to provide interior decorations for Palace of Westminster.

In 1864, Horsley became a Royal Academician.

The waiting maid by Horsley.

The waiting maid by Horsley.

From 1875 to 1897, Horsley was a rector and treasurer of the Royal Academy.

Because he was strictly against nude models he earned the nickname ‘Clothes-Horsley’.

Woodburytype of Henry Cole by Lock & Whitfield.

Woodburytype of Henry Cole by Lock & Whitfield.

Horsley designed the first ever Christmas card in 1843, which was commissioned by Henry Cole in London.

It was the most popular card of the Victorian Era.

Cole is credited with devising the concept of sending greeting cards at Christmas time.

He was a very busy man who didn’t have time to write to all his family and friends at Christmas time, so he turned to his friend Horsley to illustrate his idea.

The world's first commercially produced Christmas card, designed by John Callcott Horsley for Henry Cole in 1843.

The world’s first commercially produced Christmas card, designed by John Callcott Horsley for Henry Cole in 1843.

The central picture of the card showed three generations of a family raising toast to the card’s recipient.

On either side of the card were scenes of charity, with food and clothing being given to the poor.

That year, over a thousand cards were printed and sold for a shilling each. The card caused some controversy because it depicted a small child drinking wine.

He was a member of the artist's colony in Cranbrook.

He was a member of the artist’s colony in Cranbrook.

In 2001, one of the eighteen original cards which are known to be still in existence was sold at auction for £22,500.

This card belonged to Cole’s grandmother and she received it in 1843.

Here is another Christmas story from us: Japan is obsessed with Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas; Some people even order months in advance to avoid lines

After the publication of the card, Horsley designed the Horsley envelope which was a pre-paid envelope that was the precursor to the postage stamp.