Santa debuted in 1931 in Coke ads in The This girl runs on hot chocolate and cats Christmas shirt that magazine, as well as in Ladies Home Journal,National Geographic, The New Yorker and others. From 1931 to 1964, Coca-Cola advertising showed Santa delivering toys (and playing with them!), pausing to read a letter and enjoy a Coke, visiting with the children who stayed up to greet him, and raiding the refrigerators at a number of homes. The original oil paintings Sundblom created were adapted for Coca-Cola advertising in magazines and on store displays, billboards, posters, calendars and plush dolls. Many of those items today are popular collectibles.
Sundblom created his final version of Santa Claus in 1964, but for several decades to follow,Coca-Cola advertising featured images of Santa based on Sundblom’s original works. These paintings are some of the most prized pieces in the art
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Sundblom painted the image of Santa using a live model — his friend Lou Prentiss, a This girl runs on hot chocolate and cats Christmas shirt When Prentiss passed away, Sundblom used himself as a model, painting while looking into a mirror. Finally, he began relying on photographs to create the image of St. Nick. People loved the Coca-Cola Santa images and paid such close attention to them that when anything changed, they sent letters to The Coca-Cola Company. One year, Santa’s large belt was backwards (perhaps because Sundblom was painting via a mirror). Another year, Santa Claus appeared without a wedding ring, causing fans to write asking what happened to Mrs. Claus