For Santa poster, 1950, courtesy The Coca-Cola Company and Playboy cover, 1972, courtesy of Heritage Auctions
For over 30 years Haddon Sundblom painted Santa Claus for The Coca-Cola Company and helped establish an image of Christmas still in use today. After his services were no longer required, however, Sundblom took his association with the Santa character to a very different client…
Sundblom’s work for Coca-Cola is examined in more detail in Mark Sinclair’s piece in our current issue, which looks at the impact of his Yes Girl poster alongside his wholesome depictions of American family and pin up art. Sundblom’s story ends with a last commission for Playboy in 1972, one of only a few painted covers that the magazine ever published. He died four years later.
But with his Playboy painting, was Sundblom aiming a cheeky parting shot at his former employer? According to his wife, Betty, Sundblom was devastated when he was dropped from McCann-Erikson’s Coke account in 1964. “That just broke his heart,” she recalls in an interview in Illustration magazine. “I think that’s what killed him, really.”
Times had changed. Advertising was in thrall to television and photography, and the prevailing tastes no longer fitted with Sundblom’s wholesome painterly aesthetic. And with the Playboy commission, he finally said goodbye to the red and white suit.
Above, Sundblom’s first painting of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola, 1931
CR in Print
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In print, Creative Review carries far richer, more in-depth articles than we run here on the blog. This month, for example, we have nine pages on Saul Bass, plus pieces on advertising art buyers, Haddon Sundblom, the illustrator who ensured that Coke will forever be linked with Santa Claus, Postmodernism, Brighton’s new football ground and much more. Plus, it’s our Photography Annual, which means an additional 85 pages of great images, making our November issue almost 200-pages long, the biggest issue of CR for 5 years.
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