With the holiday season rapidly approaching, our cover this month, “Cream of Wheat Advertisement” (39 in. by 18 in.) by Haddon Sundblom, which sold at Heritage’s Illustration Art Signature Auction in New York on Oct. 13, 2012 for $10,000, is particularly appropriate. What does an advertisement for porridge have to do with the holidays? Well, artist Haddon Sundblom is best known for his work on another company’s ads: He painted the famous images of Santa Claus for Coca Cola, which have been the center of its holiday campaigns since the 1930s. These paintings, based on Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” helped create the modern image of Santa Claus that endures to this day.
Sundblom was a master at creating warm, comforting images that evoke a simpler, more carefree time. (He also painted the mascot for Quaker Oatmeal.) Such depictions are easy to dismiss as cliché in today’s cynical world, but that’s what makes them particularly valuable. When everyone is a cynic, sometimes a dose of earnestness is exactly what we need.