B.C. Binning and Cards for Festive Days

Bertram Binning. Seasons Greetings collage card, 1953. mixed media collage on paper

B.C. Binning, Seasons Greetings collage card, 1953. Mixed media collage on paper. Library and Archives, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo: NGC

The Library and Archives of the National Gallery of Canada has a little-known and unusual collection of cards, created by artists to mark festive days and the Christmas season. It comprises 136 cards, with original handmade designs by fifty Canadian artists, including André Bieler, B.C. Binning, Bruno and Molly Bobak, Fritz Brandtner, Ghitta Caiserman, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Marian Scott and Takao Tanabe. The cards were sent to senior members of the Gallery, beginning in the 1950s. They were catalogued and given to the NGC Library and Archives in the early 1970s. 

The “Seasons Greetings” card by Bertram Binning – known as B.C. Binning – was sent to the Gallery in 1953 by the artist and his wife Jessie. Binning was a leading artist, architect and teacher, known for his humour and as an excellent draughtsman. He was a prominent figure on the Vancouver art scene in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and his 1948 painting Ships in a Classical Calm, in the Gallery’s collection, represented Canada in the group show at the Venice Biennale in 1954.

His abstract paintings and drawings are often constructed in simple, geometric forms. His preference for strong primary colours lends these works a vibrancy and a boldness that are at times structured within repetitive patterns. Expressive and elegant in their simplicity, these works have a playfulness and affecting appeal that added to their popularity. Writing in 2006, art critic Harvey Buckmaster aptly commented, “The range and breadth of his artistic skills was truly remarkable but his understanding of the power of simplicity of line and colour dominated everything that challenged his imagination.”


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