J.C. Leyendecker’s Santa Claus

For December’s post I thought I’d share some images of Santa Claus by my favorite illustrator, J.C. Leyendecker. During the Golden Age of Illustration (a period from roughly the late 1800’s – 1950’s) Leyendecker was famous for his prolific advertising campaigns and his work for the Saturday Evening Post. He illustrated 322 covers for the magazine, among which can be found the first images of the modern Santa Claus.

Although he wasn’t the first to paint Santa, earlier depictions varied considerably. Saint Nick was drawn both tall and lean, squat and impish, wearing furs, wearing robes, wearing red, green, blue, or purple. From an excellent blog post on the topic:

Even though it was Thomas Nast who fleshed out the old fellow, pipe and toys in hand, Reginald Birch who gave his suit its colors and Haddon Sundblom who often incorrectly gets the credit … our modern concept and image of Santa Claus owes more to J.C. Leyendecker than to any other single artist … it was Leyendecker’s covers for The Saturday Evening Post, along with his advertising illustrations, that gave the Jolly One the form followed by Rockwell, Sundblom and subsequent other artists, and is basically the Santa figure we know and love today.

from “Leyendecker’s Santas” by Charley Parker

After Leyendecker’s illustrations finally cemented the visual look of Santa Claus, later artists like Norman Rockwell and Haddon Sundblom (famous for his Coca-Cola advertisements) followed suit! I hope you enjoy this little collection, and if you’d like to read more on the topic I’ll leave some additional links below. Happy Holidays!



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