Thursday, December 15, 2011

Santa Claus by Haddon Sundblom

When I was a kid, one of the things I looked forward to at Christmastime was the annual Coca-Cola advertisement created by the remarkable illustrator Haddon Sundblom.   Clement Moore's 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" may have describe the jolly old elf in detail, and Thomas Nast's 1881 caricature of Saint Nick may have brought the image of Santa into focus, but not until the middle of the 20th century did one artist perfect the image of Santa and make it stick.  That artist was Michigan-native Haddon Sundblom (1899-1976), who created expressive paintings of the magical Mr. Claus for the Coca-Cola Company over a period of 33 years.  Here are three of my favorite Sundblom Santa ads...


  1. The one thing I don't like about how the Coke ads "finalized" the image of Santa Claus is that they don't portray him as an elf, which he previously had been described as. So we're left with a large fellow far too chubby to fit down a chimney. And thus the "eight tiny reindeer" also are tiny no longer, but life-size.

    I would think kids would have a better time believing in a tiny dude with a wacky sack that fits every present imaginable than a giant dude who has to use some wacky dust (or maybe it's the wacky tobacky in him pipe) to make himself fit down a chimney ... AND with a wacky sack that fits every present imaginable.

  2. Well, once Santa has the dimensionally-transcendental wacky sack, he can just jump inside it himself and drop the whole thing down the chimney. (Also, given that he manages to cover the whole world in one night, Santa is presumably a Time Lord.)

    I was never sure what Moore had in mind with his "jolly old elf" line; St. Nicholas was traditionally depicted as tally and thin (more Tolkienly elvish). Then again, several centuries of milk and cookies would make you chubby too….

    -David "well, okkay, maybe not you" Green

  3. @Keeper: True, but when kids go to the department store to give Santa their Christmas list, I doubt if they want to talk to a spritely elf.