Discover the Legend Of Santa Claus Illustrated through Art

The Ancient Santa Claus – Travels the Countryside Helping the Poor and Sick

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married.

The painting above is known to be one of the first paintings of “Santa Claus” which was created in 1294 by Russian artist Aleksa Petrov.

The Pipe Smoking Santa Claus – Memorializing Family Sacrifices

Thomas Nast (September 27, 1840 – December 7, 1902) was a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist considered to be the “Father of the American Cartoon.” Nast was the first one who invented the popular image of Santa Claus.


Nast first drew Santa Claus for the 1862 Christmas season Harper’s Weekly cover and center-fold illustration to memorialize the family sacrifices of the Union during the early and, for the north, darkest days of the Civil War. His use of Santa Claus was melancholy, sad for the faltering Union war effort in which Nast so fervently believed, and sad for the separation of soldiers and families.

The Commercialized Santa Claus – Coke is the real thing!

Haddon Hubbard “Sunny” Sundblom (June 22, 1899 – March 10, 1976) was a Finnish illustrator and American artist best known for the images of Santa Claus he created for The Coca-Cola Company. Sundblom is best remembered for his advertising work, specifically the Santa Claus advertisements he painted for The Coca-Cola Company in the 1930s.


Sundblom’s Claus firmly established the larger-than-life, grandfatherly Claus as a key figure in American Christmas imagery.

A Drum For Tommy

Almost every year Rockwell painted at least one Santa Claus painting.


A Drum for Tommy, also called Santa with Drum, completed in 1921 is also the only Rockwell Santa to appear on the pages of The Country Gentleman.

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