by Joan M. Rehlin
A holiday mini art history post...
Thomas Nast (9/27/1840–12/7/1902) was born in Germany and immigrated with his family to the United States when he was a young child. Although he did poorly overall in school, he excelled in drawing. At 15 Nast enrolled at the National Academy of Design in NYC, and at 17 his drawings first appeared in Harper’s Weekly magazine.
Nast became a staff illustrator with Harper’s beginning in 1862, and was associated with the magazine until 1886. Considered the father of the American cartoon, Nast reportedly exerted more political power than any other 19th century artist. He created political caricatures (e.g., Boss Tweed / Tammany Hall) and symbols (e.g., Republican elephant), plus refined others (e.g., Democratic donkey, Uncle Sam).
Of importance to our holiday mini art history post is the fact that Nast also created the modern-day depiction of Santa Claus, as a jolly man delivering presents to children. Nast based his Santa drawings on older, traditional German figures — from his fond childhood memories of a bearded Sankt Nikolaus, who distributed treats at Christmastime — and on the description of Santa by Clement Moore in the well-known poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas.
Merry Old Santa Claus, illustration, 1881, Thomas Nast
Jim Rehlin's Art Blog
Welcome to my Art Blog where I'll be presenting topics of interest in the fine art world, as well as featuring images of artwork by artists other than myself. Some of the artwork has been created by long-departed but well-known greats; some, by compelling contemporary artists. All will be pieces I find worthwhile to share with you, and if you like any of them, consider sharing the images forward to your own blogs and other social media.