Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Old School: Haddon Sundblom

While its not my intention to provoke a popularity contest, surely Haddon Sundblom deserves the title of Pre-eminent "Old School" Illustrator of the 20th Century.

Just take a moment to luxuriate in Sundblom's ability to lay down a stroke of paint and have it somehow magically transform into a perfect fold of clothing or curl of hair.

In an article by Robert E. Olsen in the 16th issue of Illustration magazine, Charles Showalter, who worked in Sundblom's studio, said of the artist that it was amazing how he could put so much paint on so fast, with "all the colours, values, lighting, and everything in there."

You can examine Sundblom's amazing illustrations more closely in my Haddon Sundblom Flickr set.


  1. AWESOME!!! What a treat to wake up to...


  2. Might be old school, but can he paint or what!

  3. Anonymous11:58 AM

    Reading your great posts about Haddon Sundblom and Harry Anderson had me remembering Harry Bennett, another artist and commercial illustrator in the 1940s and 1950s. Another of the Westport, CT, group. Do you know of him? He's still with us, still painting but no longer illustrating and his son, Tom, also an artist, is a friend of mine -- though I've asked Tom and he says his father has little interest in his past because he's already lived it once. I've directed Tom to your excellent blog but don't know if he's seen it yet.

  4. They used to call Sundblom "Happy" Sundblom, in part because he was well known for keeping a liquor bottle close at hand by his easel. He reportedly went through them at a rapid pace. As is often the case, it can be hard to reconcile the artist's life with the cheerful, glowing art he created-- but I agree with Rene, the guy sure could paint, and that's what's important.

  5. Thanks all for your comments.


    I'm not aware of Harry Bennet but I'd love to see some of his work. A shame that he isn't interested in sharing his experiences with the current generation -- perhaps you can encourage him to chat with you some time about it? He needs to know that he is an important part of a worthy craft and his thoughts would help contribute to the continuity of that craft.


    I did read a little about Sundblom's benders in the Illustration article about Charles Showalter. I have heard so many stories about the role booze played in the business back then -- its such a common theme. I sometimes marvel at the sheer talent that some of these guys had to be able to operate so professionally in spite of the overindulgence.

    Showalter says Sundblom would return after two steady days of drinking, in a rumpled jacket, roll up his sleeves and get right down to it!

    They sure knew how to hold their liquor! ;-)

  6. You could sure do a lot worse then Sundblom! Wonderful work!

  7. Anonymous11:28 AM

    Leif -- thanks for your reply. I'll forward your message to his son and see if we can't get him interested in talking about his career.

    There isn't much about him on the Internet, I've found only one or two links -- and sometimes samples of his illustrations work show up on eBay.
    Here's one link:

  8. That's a fascinating post - thanks for the link, rapilje! I'll certainly hope that Harry Bennet changes his mind. His wonderful work needs to be remembered and his career - and his insight about the business - recorded for the benefit of future generations.

  9. Anonymous3:05 PM

    I am the owner of the Merrill Co. Publishers and have the original artwork (large oil painting) by Haddon Sundblom. It was for the 1949 Coloring Book "Santa's Surprise." Go here to see a pic of the Coloring Book.

    1. I am trying to authenticate this Haddpn Sundblom painting published by Ideals magazine in 1953 December vol 10 #6 issue..George Hinke was Ideals Santa artist but in 53 he died I have had many art gallerys tell me it looks spot on as a Sundblom and in 1953 this was his santa..Ideals cant tell me who but told me Sundblom could have done ..The work is un signed 17x22 on canvas

  10. Wow - it's a treat to see such a rare piece... Thanks for sharing your treasure with us, anonymous! :-)

  11. Beautiful stuff, thanks for sharing.