Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Between jovial and madcap....

When it comes to Santa Claus, I want him to land somewhere between jovial and madcap (perhaps a little more toward madcap). I don't know if Thomas Nast's Santa Illustrations fulfill this predilection of mine, or have spawned it. When I was a child, a Santa who appeared a little too sane held no interest for me: after all, sanity seemed to fly in the face of his principal activities. In Nast's illustrations I found a Santa who looked like he was capable embracing his raison d'être.

Case in point:

And another (Hey Diddle-Diddle!):

I wasn't a huge fan of Arlo Guthrie back in the 60's, but it occurred to me that it must have been one of Nast's Santa Illustrations that inspired his song The Pause of Mr Claus. Perhaps this one….

And then on the 'jovial ' side we have illustrations like this— still a little craziness lingering below the surface, but over-all, benign.

and this one, too... (perhaps he's sharing ein Witz mit der Easter Bunny?)

Researching this post gave me the opportunity to delve deeper into my Santa Claus studies. Wow! sometimes it doesn't pay to delve too deep—especially if you're scrutinizing a cultural icon like Santa Claus. If I'm to believe what I've been reading the last couple of days, Santa Claus—as I've envisioned him for 58 yearsis a construct emanating from New York (of all places) during the 19th century. Furthermore, literarily and graphically, Santa in his current state owes more to Washington Irving and Thomas Nast than he does to religious or folk traditions. Yikes!

This prompted my own personal exploration of the man and the myth, which is still a work in progress. As the illustration below indicates I am slowly building my case that indeed Santa Claus was some sort of an alter ego for Thomas Nast. The similarity of the names is just too strong to be coincidental. I'm contemplating sending an inquiry to the municipal keeper of records in Nast's hometown of Landau, Germany to determine whether there was a Klaus Nast somewhere in his family's past... On this I will keep you posted. And then there's the issue of the facial hair. I know that in this I risk sounding crazy and obsessed (in light of the July 31st posting in this blog), but come on—just look at it!

On we've got a great collection of Nast's Christmas Illustrations—check it out!

1 comment:

  1. Great article... well written and use of images. Particularly the Nast=Santa comparison. :)