This year’s post about Santa Claus (or suitable Santa Equivalent) is Old Kris by the great American illustrator N.C. Wyeth (more on N.C. Wyeth in a future post).
I had the pleasure of seeing this painting in person recently, as it is in the permanent collection of the Brandywine River Museum and currently on display as part of their Scenes of the Season exhibit (runs until January 11, 2009).
Here we have Wyeth basically doing his take, as did Norman Rockwell, Haddon Sundblom and a host of others, on a version of Santa Claus as most emphatically refined by J.C. Leyendecker; though the characterization of the Jolly One in slightly different form goes back to Thomas Nast and beyond (see my post on Illustrators’ Visions of Santa Claus.
Wyeth’s wonderfully textured characterization of Kris Kringle, with his star and moon studded sack, slightly trimmer waistline and nice details like the mouse perched on the grandfather clock, was a cover for Country Gentleman November 1, 1925 (Country Gentleman was published by Curtis Publishing, publisher of the Saturday Evening Post.)
Perhaps his slightly trimmer waistline and tighter belt makes him a Santa for our times.