1931 Sundblom Santa

Haddon Sundblom’s Coca-Cola Santa

The image most Americans today have of Santa Claus, the big jolly man with the rosy cheeks in the red suit, that image of St. Nick originated with Swedish-American painter, Haddon Sundblom. Prior to Sundblom, the most recognizable, arguably the first Americanized version of Santa was created by Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly, but in 1931, the first of Sundblom’s iconic images of the Coca-Cola Santa was shared with the public and for the next thirty-three years, he painted more than forty versions. In 1964, he created his last Santa for Coca-Cola.

Visible in this charcoal drawing is Sundblom’s thought process, considering every potential medium for his work from posters to magazines.

Throughout the years, Sunblom’s neighbor was his first model with Sundblom himself taking over the role after his neighbor died.

The toys in Santa’s sack would change to reflect the trends of the time, like a remote-controlled flying helicopter.

His paintings have been displayed in museums throughout the world and are still on display today.

Sundblom’s last job at age 71 was for Playboy where he created this classic cover for their December issue in 1972.

At auction, Sundblom’s lone cover art for Playboy fetched $47,800.

This 2014 segment from Antiques Roadshow showcases one of Sundblom’s last paintings. In the segment, we gain a bit more insight into Sundblom’s process: painting on canvas, then carefully cutting it out and pasting it to a heavy board. Ever the product of the Great Depression, Sundblom would often reuse or paint over existing works, and in this case, he cut the arm to create different poses.