Christmas Card: Shout with Joy
Dora Wheeler Keith first received national acclaim for this Christmas card design, produced by Louis Prang & Co. Her mother, Candace Wheeler, was an artist, illustrator, entrepreneur, and the founder of both the New York Exchange for Women’s Work and the Society of Decorative Art in New York. The Wheelers were major patrons of American art, with close ties to Sanford Gifford, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Samuel Colman, all leading American artists involved in advancing the status of decorative arts.
Trained under the prominent artist and instructor William Merritt Chase, Dora Wheeler was a painter and tapestry designer for the decorative firm American Artists, founded in 1883 by her mother. In 1893, she executed a large series of murals for the ceiling of the Library of the Woman’s Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Along with Mary Cassatt, who also painted murals for the Chicago fair, this commission was a pioneering achievement for a female artist in the nineteenth century, an era where social boundaries largely determined the type of artwork created by women.
Wheeler’s award-winning card design features three peacock-feather winged angels resembling Classical Graces who blow into horns, framed by silk fringe and a geometric floral motif. Seen in a series of overlapping roundels in the lower right corner is the infant Christ, flanked by St. John and the Virgin Mary, with angelic cherubim. The innovative balance of voluptuous forms and flattened pattern anticipates the international style of Art Nouveau, establishing Wheeler’s pioneering career as a celebrated artist and illustrator.