• Mary Evans Seeley

President and Mrs. George W. Bush Christmas Card: The Red Room

Updated: Oct 2, 2018

The Red Room is “the perfect room for a Christmas card. I know that it has been a subject of a lot of Christmas cards over the years because it is so perfect.” says Laura Bush. As of 2017, the George Bush's were the fourth First Family to use the Red Room as the subject of their official card.

In 2004, Laura Bush chose a musical decorating theme centering around “all those great Christmas songs that we all grew up with and sang to our girls . . . like ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ ‘Frosty the Snowman,’ and ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” After Thanksgiving, volunteers arrived to decorate the 41 trees, various mantels and tables in the White House.

Cindi Holt, a self-taught artist from Ft. Worth, Texas, was one the volunteers. In 1998, the Bushes had used one of Holt's paintings of the Library in the Governor’s Mansion for their Christmas card. While decorating the White House, Holt asked if she could make drawings of the Red Room. Using her fanciful style and lively colors, Holt transformed her sketches into a 60 by 50-inch oil painting and posted its image on her gallery’s website in 2003.

After months of a fruitless search for an artist to paint the art for their 2004 card, Mrs. Bush viewed Holt’s existing rendering of the Red Room and thought it “the perfect room for a Christmas card. I know that it has been a subject of a lot of Christmas cards over the years because it is so perfect.” Holt was asked to create a new painting with modifications.

The new work needed to be vertical rather than horizontal, and the doors to the room were to be left slightly ajar. In keeping with the musical theme of the decorations, Mrs. Bush requested that the artist add a music stand and, for a traditional touch, the Red Room’s customary cranberry tree. When Holt researched a music stand to add to the painting, she noticed it matched the carved lyre motif found on the 1825 oak card table in the foreground.

Unlike previous Red Room paintings for the Christmas cards of Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton, Holt’s Matisse-like rendering emphasized the early 19th century French Savonnerie rug more than had the others. “The point of the painting,” explained the artist, “is about letting your light shine. There is light coming through the door, light from the two candelabra on the mantel, light from the fire, and light from the candles in the foreground.”

For their 2004 official holiday card, President and Mrs. Bush selected Scripture in keeping with their music theme. Psalm 95:2 read, “Let us come before Him with Thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.” Music was likewise included in their greeting: “May songs of joy fill your home with warmth and your heart with happiness this holiday season. 2004."

To commemorate the Bush's selection of the Red Room for their Christmas cards and gifts, I incorporated the music stand, cranberry tree, and mantle clock of the Bush Red Room in my Christmas ornament in 2018. This began a series of ornaments featuring White House Rooms that graced our presidents' Official Christmas Cards and Gifts which you can see in the "Ornaments" section.

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