By DARLA MCCAMMON
Lakeland Art Association
WARSAW — Norman Rockwell did 30 paintings of Santa, and he is largely held responsible for our cheery red-cheeked chubby version of Santa that we all enjoy today. Older paintings of Saint Nick were often a bit more forbidding, but our current classic Santa is an avuncular figure we cherish. Can’t you see the twinkle in his eye on that Saturday Evening Post 1924 magazine cover in which Santa is certainly overlooking a few minor infractions and moving his “naughty” entries over to “nice?”
Did you know that Rockwell was very instrumental also in working with the Coca-Cola company? He created six paintings that were used by Coca-Cola in its world-wide advertising. The Coca-Cola company is in possession of three of those paintings. The other three paintings are mysteriously known as “The Missing Rockwells.” Even the Antiques Road Show has become involved in trying to find those three paintings. According to the Coca-Cola company, “We are still searching for the three works which were created for Coca-Cola in the late ’20s and early ’30s. Two were used as billboards, and one was a calendar—but the original art is still missing.”
How could such wonderful work go missing while three of them survived? At this time in Rockwell’s career, illustrators were not considered “real” artists. Their work was considered disposable and not truly worth saving. What do you think the person who paid $46 million for one of Rockwell’s paintings would think about that attitude toward one of the world’s most talented artists? Often times, in those days, the pieces could have, and often were, left at the print shop or with the ad agency and never returned to the company paying for the work. The three pieces that Coca-Cola did manage to save were only found in the last 25 years. You can bet Coca-Cola has them in a museum, under lock and key now.
The paintings Rockwell did for Coca-Cola included one Santa. Surprisingly there were seven other paintings that were created for the company that were rejected. They had their reasons but still held Rockwell in such high esteem that he was allowed to sign his work and have it included in the final ad. These pieces have survived and are in the hands of private collectors. The Santa painting? It was a 1935 piece in which Santa is holding a fountain glass bubbling with Coca-Cola. It includes a handwritten poem but much behind this work and whether it was commissioned, and why it was rejected remains a mystery. Rockwell, nevertheless, had plenty of success painting his 29 other Santa Claus pieces that all did get published and used. Next week, one more Rockwell Santa painting for you.
Upcoming and Current Events:
- Paul Ramain exhibit at Warsaw City Hall. Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Free admission. Ramain is changing this exhibit frequently, so be sure to make return visits till it closes at the end of December.
- Christmas Boutique at Lakeland Art Association. Find lovely creative and innovative items including paintings, crafts and more! Located at 302 E. Winona Ave., Warsaw. Open at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
- Coming Jan. 3, a wonderful exhibit by Sherrie Johnson at Warsaw City Hall.
- Coming February, top students from Grace College return with winning work.
For more information on topics in this column, please contact Darla McCammon at [email protected] or (574) 527-4044. Older columns at www.darlamc.com