The War Artist Who Won Christmas, Santa Nast's Countdown To The Day

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JPK Huson 1863

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nast new santa us belt.jpg

A " US " belt slipped over Santa's arm and into this work by Thomas Nast succeeds is one of our indications the war and those who fought were Nast's subjects. He somehow managed to combine war with hope or at least let us know hope hadn't fled. Magic and Christmas was out there somewhere.

This. Section from Nast's famous contribution to Christmas at war, 1863.
nast new soldiers santa.JPG

From Nast's famous Harper's cover, 1863. Only Nast could reach into country at war and come up with this. He's been accused of romanticizing the war- I disagree. He was dragging hope out of all the blood, mud and death. And reminded us of that, too.

nast new soldiers graves.JPG
nast new soldier shipwreck.JPG

Blown up, vignettes from war's realities surround his portrayals of family Christmas- these are from " Furlough ". Main image below is a soldier returning to his family for the holiday.
nash new furlough couple.JPG
nash new furlough snip kids.JPG

Whose children Santa had visited. It's a wonderful piece, war and the next generation watched over by Christmas himself.

When even those flatly uninterested in the ACW are familiar with an ACW themed piece of artwork, it means they've succeeded beyond the scope of 99.99999999% of us. Thomas Nast's uber famous, beyond delightful contribution to Harper's December issue cover may be a wildly unrealistic portrayal of Christmas in Camp. It's still delightful. Besides, he also left us less delightful, always poignant and fairly well known portrayals of Christmas at war. Quite a few all together.

Guessing this won't have the effect in 2019 Nast intended. Which was Peace. On Earth. Goodwill To All Men. You don't have to be religious to say Amen to that. " President Lincoln invites Southern leaders to a place at the table ". 150 years later Lincoln for some reason remains a swear word, seems to me everyone's still peering around the door.
lincoln seat table.jpg


There's a public access book that glued together all Thomas Nast's work devoted to Christmas.

" But the artist's hand is never happier than when, with the lambent light of the same humor, it irradiates the play of domestic affection, and makes the home circle gay. It is the bluff, honest Santa Claus of "The Night before Christmas;" the Santa Claus of the reindeer and the sleigh, alighting on the snowy roof, and descending the chimney with his wondrous pack of treasures; the Santa Claus of unsuspecting childhood, and the Mother Goose of undoubting infancy, to whom these pages introduce us. There is no child who cannot understand them, no parent who cannot enjoy them. Mr.- Nast is fairly without a rival in this kind. His Santa Claus is old Father Christmas himself, and his welcome will be as general and as hearty as that which salutes the crammed and enchanted stocking on Christmas morning. "

Snip from the book. Never did we need Nast's work than those years spanning Christmas's in a country at war with itself.

Posting a Nast war image a day for the next two weeks. Not the huge spreads he left us, they should be savored like a good piece of gingerbread. One crumb of comfort at a time.
 
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James N.

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JPK Huson 1863

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These seem of poor quality only because they've been blown up quit a bit. Nast simply crammed his work full of whatever point he was making. You could miss them and it'd be a shame. He still gets accused of romanticizing war- I just don't see it. Image of men slogging away on a march on Christmas Day is part of his essay, you know?
nast new soldier snip.JPG


Top portion of Nast's famous cover, Santa in camp? It's an awfully good portrayal of one of those celebrations we've all read about. Greased pig chases ( come on, how fun was that albeit hard on the pig ), pole climbing, sack races- makes me regret film was still in the future.

nast new soldiers games.JPG
 

James N.

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These seem of poor quality only because they've been blown up quit a bit. Nast simply crammed his work full of whatever point he was making. You could miss them and it'd be a shame. He still gets accused of romanticizing war- I just don't see it. Image of men slogging away on a march on Christmas Day is part of his essay, you know?
View attachment 338211

Top portion of Nast's famous cover, Santa in camp? It's an awfully good portrayal of one of those celebrations we've all read about. Greased pig chases ( come on, how fun was that albeit hard on the pig ), pole climbing, sack races- makes me regret film was still in the future.

View attachment 338212
Annie, are you sure the first one is by Nast - it reminds me of an illustration or detail from one that I thought was by Edwin Forbes? As for the greased pig chases, as I remember there was a monetary prize that was likely what the soldiers were really interested in - in addition to the pig, I mean.
 
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Peter Stines

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FWIW: Among the early depictions of Santa in this country comes from a book published in 1825 titled THE CHILDREN'S FRIEND. It depicts Santa as a fat little elf with a beard and calls him "Old Santa Clause". Clement Moore's poem calls him St. Nicholas.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Annie, are you sure the first one is by Nast - it reminds me of an illustration or detail from one that I thought was by Edwin Forbes? As for the greased pig chases, as I remember there was a monetary prize that was likely what the soldiers were really interested in - in addition to the pig, I mean.

Rats, James N.. When you say something like that of course I'm not sure. I did find it in a ( public access ) book devoted to Nast's Christmas work BUT as we've seen in other books ( Miller's.... ) images can be sourced incorrectly. So odd, I was JUST thinking of digging up what Christmas work there is by Forbes, for another thread! If it's not Nast, would someone let me know? It's pretty idiotic using a not-by-him image to head a thread about Nast.

Chasing Prang's war work down too- so far just maps. Still, it's something.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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FWIW: Among the early depictions of Santa in this country comes from a book published in 1825 titled THE CHILDREN'S FRIEND. It depicts Santa as a fat little elf with a beard and calls him "Old Santa Clause". Clement Moore's poem calls him St. Nicholas.
Love this stuff! There are some awfully good discussions here about names, origins, history of Santa, etc. 1825! Earliest I've heard, thank you!
 
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