Santa Claus is everywhere, as Christmas makes its way into our lives once again. Many may not know it, but the Santa Claus we are all familiar with today, the jolly fat old guy in the red suit, was actually a Coca-Cola conjured version created in the 1930’s. Famed Chicago commercial Illustrator, Haddon Sundblom is responsible for the red garbed Santa that appeared in the 1931 Christmas advertising campaign for the soft drink giant. Prior to that time, Santa’s were shown as either tall and thin, or short and wizened, and usually dressed in a rainbow of colors.
Little did Sundblom realize that his rendition of the jolly plump Santa would become an indelible version the entire world would embrace to this day. Santa Claus, also called Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Saint Nicholas, and simply “Santa”, is a legendary figure with mythical, historical as well as folkloric origins.
Many Western cultures depict him as bringing gifts to the homes of good, well-behaved kids on December the 24th, or the night before Christmas. Every once in a while, just like Sundblom in the 1930’s, we like to have some fun with how Santa looks, and take some creative liberties with his appearance.
This is exactly what photographer Ed Wheeler has been doing in his holiday greeting cards, dressing up as Santa Claus and posing himself in amusing compositions. In 2011, Wheeler decided to raise the bar and began ‘pasting’ Santa into classical works like Botticelli’s famed The Birth of Venus painting and other masterpieces.
For instance, to take the place of the nude goddess of love, Wheeler stands in her stead all dressed up in his red long johns, Santa beard, and Christmas hat approximating as nude a Santa one could decently depict. Wheeler says the intention behind his hilarious portrayals is to “pay homage to the original paintings while offering art lovers an additional reason to smile.”
The series is simply called Santa Classics. If you like the homage series, select prints of the comical collection can be purchased through the Philadelphia Museum of Art shop and online store.