Seasons of Joy: Currier & Ives Holiday Prints from the ConAgra Foods Collection

Prints by Currier & Ives from the corporate collection of ConAgra Foods, Inc., will present a unique and joyous view of nineteenth-century autumn and winter holidays, rural and urban landscapes, and American life.

The foremost lithographers in America from the mid to late 1800s, Nathaniel Currier (1813-1888) and James Merritt Ives (1824-1895) were the "photojournalists" of the 19th century. Altogether, their firm, Currier & Ives, created between 7,000 and 8,000 scenes that were reproduced as hand-colored prints that sold in uncounted millions of copies — at one point 95 percent of all lithographs in circulation in the United States were theirs. Because of Currier & Ives, mid-19th-century America was documented more completely than any other time and place in history before the widespread use of photography.

Currier & Ives never claimed to be anything more than makers of "colored engravings for the people," offering "the best and the cheapest, and the most popular pictures in the world," but they accomplished more than that. They were the first to apply democracy to art and bring affordable artwork (prints sold for the astonishingly low price of five to twenty-five cents each) within the reach of the average American.

In the early 1990s, international food services giant ConAgra discovered crates full of old, framed prints in the warehouse of a recently acquired subsidiary. The find was soon identified as an extraordinary collection of more than 500 original Currier & Ives prints, 52 of which are presented in the exhibition. The works selected reflect a sense of middle-class values and celebrate the autumn and winter seasons with romantic moments of Thanksgiving homecomings, sleigh rides, moonlight ice skating in Central Park, apple picking, and harvest chores in landscapes that exalt nature.

Major sponsors of this exhibition at Joslyn Art Museum are Douglas County and Energy Systems. Contributing sponsor is HDR, Inc.

Family Fun Day
Attend a free Family Fun Day celebrating the Currier & Ives exhibition on Sunday, October 24.