Not Your Usual Caricature Artist
Volume 5, Number 12
Merry Christmas
(and a Happy Hanukkah and
Joyous Kwanza)!

Ever wonder how Coca-Cola “appropriated” Santa Claus to where the connection of
 these two has become one of the iconic images of our culture for nearly a century?

Welcome to the December issue of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist from Caricatures by Joel.
Here’s how Coke tells the story, from their web site:

The Santa Claus we all know and love — that big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard — didn’t always look that way. Prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. He has donned a bishop's robe and a Norse huntsman's animal skin. When Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly in 1862, Santa was a small elflike figure who supported the Union. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years, changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today.
A few other things you may not have known about the cheerful guy in the red suit.

Santa Has Been Featured in Coke Ads Since the 1920s

The  Coca-Cola  Company began its Christmas advertising in the 1920s with shopping-related ads in magazines like The Saturday Evening Post. The first Santa ads used a strict-looking Claus, in the vein of Thomas Nast.
In 1930, artist Fred Mizen painted a department-store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coke. The ad featured the world's largest soda fountain, which was located in the department store Famous Barr Co. in St. Louis, Mo. Mizen's painting was used in print ads that Christmas season, appearing in The Saturday Evening Post in December 1930.

Coca-Cola Helped Shape the Image of Santa

In 1931 the company began placing  Coca-Cola  ads in popular magazines. Archie Lee, the D'Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The  Coca-Cola  Company, wanted the campaign to show a wholesome Santa who was both realistic and symbolic. So  Coca-Cola  commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa.

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore's 1822 poem " A Visit From St. Nicholas " (commonly called "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"). Moore's description of St. Nick led to an image of a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa.

Sundblom’s Santa debuted in 1931 in Coke ads in The Saturday Evening Post and appeared regularly in that magazine, as well as in Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker and others.

The "New Santa" Was Based on a Salesman

In the beginning, Sundblom painted the image of Santa using a live model — his friend Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman. When Prentiss passed away, Sundblom used himself as a model, painting while looking into a mirror. Finally, he began relying on photographs to create the image of St. Nick.
People loved the  Coca-Cola  Santa images and paid such close attention to them that when anything changed, they sent letters to The  Coca-Cola  Company. One year, Santa's large belt was backwards (perhaps because Sundblom was painting via a mirror). Another year, Santa Claus appeared without a wedding ring, causing fans to write asking what happened to Mrs. Claus.

Thought I'd jump into the fray at this point with some samples of Christmas-related art yours truly has put forth through the years – a commissioned piece showing a tandem of ugly sweaters; a corporate greeting card; a corporate marketing piece and guests at Christmas/holiday parties.

See you again the first Tuesday of the New Year with another Winter Solstice offering from Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Joel Kweskin