The Bliss Christmas Card of 1938
James N. Carder (December 2012)
1938 was a momentous year for Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss. On April 14th, they celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. Nearly a month later on May 8th, Nadia Boulanger conducted in their Music Room the world premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto, which the Blisses had commissioned in celebration of their anniversary. In June, their close friend Royall Tyler visited them at Dumbarton Oaks for the second time and saw the Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and other artworks that he had helped them collect. 1938 was also the year that the Blisses made definite plans to give their home, gardens, and collections to Harvard University within their lifetimes rather than at the time of their deaths. To this end, they engaged the architect Thomas T. Waterman to design the Byzantine Collection pavilions, which were constructed the following year. For their 1938 Christmas card (seen above), they chose an informal image of themselves wistfully gazing at the flowering herbaceous border in the gardens. This image is all the more poignant as it records one of the very few times that the Blisses were photographed at Dumbarton Oaks. This Christmas card is retained in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.OB.Misc.021).