The Colors of Christmas in Art
Why does Santa wear red? Especially when he looks so marvelous in PINK!!
Debi Coules 2023 Christmas painting titled "Pink Santa" ignores the traditional red & green color scheme to portray the jolly-old-elf in perfect shabby-chic pink! But how exactly did Santa come to showcase his trademark red suit? It may interest you to know that our modern interpretation of "Santa Clause" has developed over centuries and has been influenced by literature, music, and especially: ART.
Santa Through Time
Santa Clause has captured the hearts and hopes of children for centuries. How many sleeplessly nights have been spent listening for sound of reindeer hooves on the rooftops? How many millions of have been scrawled hopeful letters with crayons and gleeful anticipation? He is universally loved and the symbol for kindness, compassion, and giving that helps to warm our hearts at the Christmas Season.
Though the iconic figure in his fur-trimmed red suit is so instantly recognizable, the contemporary image of the man we know as "Santa Clause" has been shaped by the contributions of artists throughout time.
The legend of Santa Clause is rooted in European tradition. For the Dutch, "Sinter Klaas" was derived from St. Nicholas, the Catholic bishop was known as the patron saint and protector of children. For centuries, Dutch families held a traditional feast on Dec 6th in his honor.
Other countries held similar traditions. Children in Sweden and Germany looked forward to the gifts coming from Christkind. Jultomten was an elf riding a goat-drawn sleigh that delivered gifts to good children in Scandinavia. In England, Father Christmas visited each home to fill their stockings with holiday treats. Rather than stockings, Père Noël left gifts in French children's shoes.
Because different countries each held their own traditions, their artist's depictions are not entirely how we might imagine "Santa Clause" with our modern expectations. Old world portraits, particularly those from Holland or Sweden, show Santa Clause as a rugged old-man in a thick leather or fur suit necessary to brave the frozen nights on foot. Swedish art portrays Santa similar to a gnome. And as for his clothing? Santa wore green, blue, and typically brown.
In all of these cultures, we see elements that make up our modern interpretation of Santa. We see the white beard, the red pointy hat, and the fur-trimmed suite. But all of these elements weren't combined into the contemporary American version of Santa until the mid 1800s.
In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore penned Christmas poem for his three daughters. The work became popularly known as "'Twas The Night Before Christmas." The poem incorporated many aspects from the different European Christmas legends, and create a detailed description of Santa Clause.
But the iconic image wasn't truly formed, until it was illustrated by an artist: "In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore's poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves and his wife, Mrs. Claus." - The History Channel
And artists throughout the world adopted the look. Suddenly, the bright red-suit appeared on greeting cards, advertisements, book illustrations, and more. And with that, the contemporary "Santa" we know and love was truly defined.
But the legend continued to grow. 1934 Christmas song "Santa Claus is coming to Town" introduced the idea of a "naughty and nice" list. As a marketing gimmick, Robert L. May at the Montgomery Ward department store wrote a poem about Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer. And so the story of Santa continues to develop and incorporate new elements as time, culture, and art progress.
Modern Christmas Artwork
So does Santa always have to wear red?
In 2023, artist Debi Coules painted a Christmas portrait entitled "Pink Santa." It incorporates many of the quintessential aspects of Santa Clause: the full white beard, the button nose, and blushing cheeks. But what truly sets this unique Christmas painting apart, is the powder pink suit. Debi Coules was able to create an original holiday masterpiece in her trademark shabby-chic-pink color palette. The accenting holly leaves are a soft peppermint green to add color-balance to the artwork.
The "Pink Santa" contemporary Christmas painting is the perfect art piece for those who love to celebrate the season outside of the traditional holiday colors. Green and Red have dominated the holiday color scheme for centuries, making it so delightful to see those who choose to decorate for Christmas in unique and beautiful ways. Pink and White, or a splash of pastel, is a soft, feminine look for Christmas, that, when properly executed, creates incredible seasonal décor.
For those choosing to features PINK in their Christmas décor, we invite you to view "Pink Santa" by Debi Coules. Available as a Giclee canvas print for a smooth and polished look, or a rustic Wood Print for modern farmhouse décor.