Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Drawing of Santa

If it weren't for Clement Moore, author of The Night Before Christmas (1823) and artist, Thomas Nast, we probably wouldn't have the Santa Claus we enjoy today.

Originally, the idea of Santa Claus evolved from the Dutch Sinterklauss, who stems from St. Nicholas, a bishop from Greece, usually celebrated on his holiday of December 6th.  Our current-day Santa has many similarities of the Dutch counterpart—the red garb, the large white beard and helper (servant) named Zwarte Piet or Black Peter (see boy looking in the window).

Our contemporary Santa began his visual journey from a mid-19th century editorial artist, Thomas Nast, who worked for Harper's Weekly. His first Santa appeared in January, 1863, where Santa was giving gifts to the soldiers in camp during the Civil War.

The next time Nast draws him, Santa is a kindly old man with pipe in hand for a Harper's Weekly Christmas Eve spread.

Here is the beginning of the Santa to come.

Notice how the white beard is fuller and he's added the pipe.

Years later, in the midst of the Victorian Age, Nast illustrated the most famous Santa of all: Merry Old Santa Claus, which appeared in Harper's Weekly, January 1, 1881. The time was plumb for this Santa, who was adored by the Victorians and loved by their children. Nast has also been credited with creating Santa's home in the North Pole, the helpful elves, letter writing to Santa and only gifts given to good children.
Click on the picture and take a look at all the intricate line work.
From an illustrative viewpoint, this Santa is work of superb inkwork. Notice all the hatch and cross-hatch work. Below you can see more of his illustrations with Santa and children, all with the same craftsmanship.

Notice the brick line work!

Our modern-day Santa took on a more robust look when Coca-Cola "hired" Santa to be their visual spokesman. During the holidays, soft drinks didn't do as well. So to beef up sales, Coke really hired an illustrator named Haddon Hubbard "Sunny" Sundblom (June 22, 1899 – March 10, 1976). Using the Night before Christmas as his model, Sundblom painted the first Santa, while working for  D'Arcy Advertising Agency.
For the next thirty years, Sundblom would entertain us with
his many renditions of Santa Claus
Again, taking a closer look at this painting of Santa, you will find a wonderful painting with settle brush stroke for the beard and a interesting use of light.

Feel free to visit my new page at  Glastonbury Studios Facebook  to learn more on this subject. In the meantime, have a happy holiday season and I wish you a great new year in 2011. I'll be back next month with an article on the sketches of Rembrandt.

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