The TRUTH About Santa Claus Revealed!by Charles Spillar on Dec. 16, 2009, under arts, Tucson Art
Have you ever wondered who was the first person in America to paint a picture of jolly old Santa Claus? We all know that he exists and brings wonderment to us all this time of year but WHO first revealed how he really looked?
You may be surprised to find out that Santa has a Tucson connection. In the early 1930s, an artist named Haddon H. Sundblom was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company to create a Santa that would be more appealing to the children than the tall, thin somewhat serious Kris Kringle of European legend.
Since that time the rosy cheeked, red-suited fellow brings a smile to the faces of young and old. No one knows for sure but I believe the real Santa appeared to him so he could see for sure just what he looked like and then disappeared leaving the artist to use his imagination and painting talents to create a true likeness.
Sundblom’s jovial Santa brought great cheer and a sense of optimism to a country that was struggling through the Depression and World War II from the 1930s to 1945.
For many years Sundblom visited Tucson during the winters and stayed at what is now the Westward Look Resort. While enjoying the desert breeze and warm sunshine from his balcony there he brought Santa’s image to life in the 40 paintings he created for Coca-Cola.
Lani and Sancy Nason, daughters of the resort’s owners at the time, were often used by Sundblom as models for his paintings. In one of the paintings Sundblom transformed Sancy into a young boy to portray the perfect Coca-Cola message to both boys and girls. Though Lani and Sancy no longer live in Arizona, their mother still resides by the Westward Look on three acres she and her husband kept after selling the resort in 1968.
I visited the resort recently and was really impressed with the multi-million dollar renovation. The desert gallery at the resort still houses some of Sundblom’s memorabilia and drawings. For directions and information about the Westward Look Resort please visit http://www.westswardlook.com.