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Online Collections

A Jolly Good Fellow

painting

1874

By the time Thomas Nast (1840-1902) painted this Santa Claus in 1874, he had drawn the "jolly good fellow" hundreds of times for "Harper's Weekly," the most influential and widely read of the era's magazines. Modeling his Santa on Clement Moore's 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," Nast worked to rid the image of its Old World, religious austerity, creating instead the portly, avuncular, and thoroughly American fellow with the white beard. "His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!/His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;/His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,/And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow." At the request of "Harper's Weekly," Nast created his first Santa in 1863, during the Civil War. The fiercely pro-Union Nast depicted a Santa decked in stars and stripes, distributing packages from home to Union troops. Amid the turbulence of the war, Nast's Santa recalled a sense of domestic tranquility that would become the trademark association for this icon of the American Christmas. Even in this spare 1874 depiction, Santa, adorned in characteristic furs trimmed with holly and mistletoe, toasts us from the warmth of the domestic hearth.

ArtistThomas Nast
Materialoil | canvas
OriginUSA
Stylerepresentational
Object ID77.784

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