In 1956, composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham were fundraising for a dance recital and reached out to renowned textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen for support. In response, Larsen commissioned Cage to design his company's annual Christmas Card.
While sitting around the kitchen table of his neighbors—enamelist Paul Hultberg and his wife painter Ethel Hultberg—Cage proposed making an unfolding card on newsprint that would fit into a lightweight elegant box to be mailed out to Jack’s clients and friends. Cage designed the graphic elements, and the Hultbergs help cut out the letters and paste it all together.
According to the John Cage Trust: “On Dec. 14, 1956, John Cage submitted an invoice to Jack Lenor Larsen related to his work for Jack Lenor Larsen, Inc., an exciting upstart textile firm in New York City. The total amount was $9.77, reimbursement being requested for the cost of newspapers ($3.60), paper-fasteners ($5.67), and "Mother's" paper bags ($.50). For Cage, the work had been a pleasure, and in his brief letter he expressed the hope that Larsen would call on him again. As he added at the close, he was again near ‘financial zero,’ and trusted that Larsen would expedite payment of his invoice.”
Larsen was pleased with the card and asked Cage to design another in 1957, which he did. It was the beginning of a 40-year-long professional relationship during which Cage was Larsen’s artistic director.
Cage gave the Hultbergs this original collage, the only known extant copy. More of the story behind this work can be found in the Design Miami/ Forum magazine here.
Newspapers, "Mother's" paper bags & paper fasteners
70" x 12" unframed