Sunday, December 16, 2007

Santa Claus by illustrator Haddon Sundblom

The character that we know as Santa Claus has, in one form or another, been around for hundreds of years, having its origins in the 4th century A.D. in the person of Saint Nicholas, who was a bishop in what is now modern-day Turkey. Over the centuries, the story of Saint Nicholas spread throughout Europe and he was mythologized, eventually becoming known by the Dutch as Sinter Klass. Dutch immigrants brought the legend to America in the 17th century. Santa became fully Americanized in 1823 in the poem "The Night Before Christmas".

Visually, Santa has a pretty lengthy history as well, but the basic version that most of us are familiar with was created in the 19th century by the American illustrator Thomas Nast. (The image on the left is Nast's "Merry Old Santa Claus", from Harper's Weekly, January 1, 1881.) This version of Santa Claus, however, was further developed by the great American illustrator Haddon Sundblom. In 1931, the Coca-Cola company commissioned Sundblom to develop advertising images of Santa, and he created a series of paintings of the beloved character over several decades. These paintings by Sundblom have become classics, and his version of Santa is the one that has become the standard for what most people envision when they think of Santa Claus.

Santa Claus by Haddon Sundblom, 1931-1964







For more information on Haddaon and Coca-Cola, click here.


Vroukje said...


A few weeks ago I accidently came across your website. I like it! I am from The Netherlands and Sinterklaas is still very famous here. At december 5th we celebrate his birthday with presents and lots of fun. Sinterklaas is actually a bit taller and slimmer than Santa Claus and always in company of 'Zwarte Piet'(Black Peter). But as many American stuff did, Santa Claus is also a part of Western Europe culture. I prefer to celebrate the birth of Christ myself, but people do have a choice with both Sinterklaas and Santa Claus!? ;)

Have a nice Christmas!

Tony Merrithew said...

Wow cool paintings! Thanks for the post.

RJ said...

Vroukje-- thanks for the interesting information on Black Peter. I checked out some history and photos. Black Peter sure wouldn't fly in the US today,and from what I gather, he is becoming more controversial over there lately as well. Still, very interesting!

I'm glad you like my blog-- thanks!

Tony-- glad you liked the Santa pics.