Haddon Sundblom. Illustrator. Michigan.

Most people don't realize that the modern looking Santa Claus, with his red suit, white beard and large belly was invented by the Coca-cola company in the 1930s. Coke wanted their holiday ad campaign to show a wholesome Santa as both realistic and symbolic so they commissioned Haddon Sundblom to develop images using Santa Claus as lifelike. Sundblom painted portraits of Santa for over 4o years while working for Coke. He had painted 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. After the 1930s, he used photographs to create the image of St. Nick. The children who appear with Santa Claus in the paintings were based on Sundblom's neighbors.

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