Australian Christmas Cards.
Messrs. Gibbs, Shallard, and Co., have sent us some specimens of their new issue of Christmas cards. Their aim has been to make every design distinctively Australian, and so far as they have resorted to the flora of our country in this aim, they are to be commended. In colour, in gracefulness of form, in separateness of char-
acter, in variety, Australian flowers supply abundant material to the Christmas-card artist who desires to avoid mere copy of home work. But we can scarcely approve throughout of the use here made of Australian animals. It be-
trays a certain lack of artistic sense and a meagreness
of invention. We shall give some details of the specimens, and in that task shall take the opportun- ity of enlarging upon what we mean.
The cards before us are specimens of a series of 31. No. 410 shows how effective the fringed flower of the eucalyptus can be made to appear. The long lance-shaped leaves and flowors form an exquisite design on a variegated back-ground, and do no vio- lence to nature either. For though our gum trees in the mass may be sombre in hue, their young leaves viewed closely are cheerful enough in tone, and in such work as this a little height- ening of colour is permissible. The same design, associated with 411, constitutes a very rich folding fringed card. The design of 411 is a spray of the scarlet glory bower, on a variegated back- ground. No. 413 is a twig of the broad-leaved mandevillea, with locust upon it ; a subject dis- tinctly local, and beautifully treated. In 421 we have a change of subject. "A Crack Shot" is represented in the person of an Australian aboriginal launching a boomerang, and as border to the picture are arranged representations of native spears, womeras, nulla nullas, hatchets, boomerangs, etc. If it be objected that the colouring is high, we may say again that this is entirely allowable in Christmas cards. In No. 401 the old world and the new are in a sense brought together. Poised in midair over an English village, where the earth is dumb with the Christmas snow, is an Australian white cockatoo. The design is good, but the execution might have been improved with advantage. It had been intended to suggest night, for the Southern Cross appears in the sky behind the bird, but the whole picture is too well lighted, and the bird does not exhibit the dazzling whiteness which is its character- istic, and of which so much could have been made by way of contrast. And there is a lack of softness in the work which is very notable. Yet these samples of the series are artistic as well as Aus-
tralian in tone and treatment, and we predict for them an extended popularity.
Nos. 402, 406, 425, and 427, are designs into which the kangaroo and emu largely enter. They are described as semi-comical. In 402 pairs of kangaroos, emus, wallabies, and opossums are seen trooping with the other animals into tho ark. The next number exhibits the kangaroo and emu, supporters of the Australian arms, greeting the lion and
unicorn, supporters of the English arms. We have
no objection to these designs : the presence of our Australian fauna in the ark may be assumed, and in the other design we have in allegory a piece of history transacted during the current year. The other two numbers are examples of what we con- demn. "At the Soudan," No. 425 shows a kangaroo mounted on an emu, and making things very unsettled for a couple of Arabs, and No. 427 is a picture of three youthful kan- garoos " watching for Pa." In looking down the list, we note an extensive introduction of the kan- garoo into the designs. Now, we lay it down as a principle that it is not permissible in art to employ animals to personify man, unless there be some- thing in the character of the animal wnich corres- ponds to something in human nature. And, secondly, it is essentially wrong to use animals to represent national characteristics unless the animals are re- presentative. Thus the British Lion, the Gallic Cock, the American Eagle indicate something of the nature of the English, the French, or the American people. There is no resemblance whatever, be- tween the Australian people and the kangaroo or emu ; these animals are not typical of any of our characteristics ; nor is there discoverable fitness in representing them as acting like children, or like vain women, or as gold diggers, cricketers, scullers, or warriors. In these efforts wit is absent, and poverty of imagination conspicuous. A picturesque use of our fauna would be quite allowable which excluded such inartistic and futile attempts to make them ministers of humour. And there are numberless ways in which the kangaroo and emu, the parrot and magpie, could be happily used for Christmas card purposes.
On the back of each card is a design in uniform tint, and a verse bearing some relation to the subject of the card. In the case of the floral cards, the name of the flower is added. The mechanical execution of the work is, as we have several times had occasion to say of the products of this establish- ment, extremely good : it is quite equal to anything imported in the Christmas card line, and in this respect Messrs. Gibbs, Shallard and Co. deserve high praise for their cultivation of local skill and