its history, The Coca-Cola Company has captured the spirit of the
times through its advertising art. From its first promotional calendars
produced in the 1890s, the Company linked itself to the popular
designs and lifestyles of the era the art represents.
The Coca-Cola Company used the work of the top artists of the day,
including the leading artists of America's Golden Age of Illustration.
Their work for the Company exemplifies the classic All-American
image they helped create in the first half of the 20th Century.
The famous illustrators produced paintings for The Coca-Cola Company
from the turn of the century into the 1960s, when their art form
was replaced by photography in the Company's advertising.
Much of the work of artists working on behalf of The Coca-Cola
Company is beautifully displayed in a recent book, Coca-Cola Girls:
An Advertising Art History by Chris H. Beyer (Collectors Press,
Inc.). The richly illustrated history captures the Company's compelling
use of "radiant, vivacious, and breezy" young women, always
dressed in the latest fashions, in Coca-Cola® advertising since
the late 1800s. The vast majority of the Company's advertising posters
and calendars featured these beautiful women, who became synonymous
with the most recognized trademark in the world.
In his book, the first art book The Coca-Cola Company has licensed
for publication, Beyer writes, "one of the most consistent
focuses of the Company's advertising has been its depictions of
attractive young women who persuade their audience to enjoy a glass
of 'Delicious' and 'Refreshing' Coca-Cola."
The earliest use of an artist's signature by The Coca-Cola Company
was on the work of Hamilton King, a prominent artist at the turn
of the century. King illustrated the beautiful "Coca-Cola girls"
for calendars from 1910 to 1913. His work also appears on serving
Over the next quarter century, the Company used a wide variety
of illustrators, some of whom signed their works. But most did not.
The anonymous craftsmen produced lavish illustrations with deep
colors that graced calendars and other promotional pieces.
In the mid 1920s, The Coca-Cola Company began working with a young
illustrator who would become synonymous with both Coca-Cola and
Santa Claus. His name was Haddon H. Sundblom.
H. Sundblom (1899-1976)
Trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy
of Art, Sundblom developed a bright style that depicted wholesome,
healthy, happy people. These upbeat and cheerful images would become
familiar and comforting icons during the dark days of the Great
Sundblom not only worked for The Coca-Cola Company, but also created
the "Quaker Man" character for the Quaker Oats Company
and did work for Packard, Nabisco and Colgate-Palmolive.
Sundblom created his first Santa Claus for The Coca-Cola Company
in 1931, using a retired salesman named Lew Prentiss as his model
and later using himself. His Santa was plump and friendly with twinkling
eyes. Sundblom continued drawing Santa for holiday campaigns for
more than 30 years. By then, the Sundblom Santa had become an enduring
American institution and permanently fixed St. Nick's image as rotund
and jolly, dressed in red and white.
More than 40 of Sundblom's original oil paintings of Santa have
been preserved in The Coca-Cola Company archives in Atlanta.
Other famous illustrators who created works for Coca-Cola included:
Born in New York City, Norman Rockwell decided early to become an
artist and trained at the New York School of Art, the National Academy
of Design and the Art Students League.
Between 1928 and 1935, Rockwell painted six different illustrations
that were used in Coca-Cola calendars, serving trays, posters and
in one Saturday Evening Post ad.
His best-known illustration for Coca-Cola was, perhaps, "Out
Fishin" 1935 - depicting a young boy, resembling Tom Sawyer,
sitting on a tree stump fishing, accompanied by his dog and a bottle
One of America's foremost illustrators and the father of artist
Andrew Wyeth, Newell Conyers Wyeth was commissioned to execute illustrations
for The Coca-Cola Company, including magazine ads, calendars and
posters. The posters include a series of illustrations on the lumber
and transportation industries for the "Our America" educational
series. Wyeth was hired to produce the Company's 50th Anniversary
calendar in 1936.
His illustration was a classic, set against a New England coastline
with a bearded old sailor leaning on his boat while a little girl
stands nearby, both with bottles of Coca-Cola.
A student of Haddon Sundblom, Elvgren is perhaps best known for
drawing and painting pin-up girls. His style was so similar to Sundblom's
that he could finish paintings that his mentor had started.
"Elvgren is probably second only to Sundblom himself in having
his artistic images identified with Coca-Cola," Elvgren's son
Drake told The Coca-Cola Collectors News in 1999. Drake Elvgren
and co-author Max Allen Collins published a 200-page book about
Gil Elvgren titled Elvgren: His Life & Art (Collectors Press,
Inc.), which includes many of his ads for Coca-Cola and documentary
photos of modeling sessions for those ads.
Born in Chicago, Mizen is known not only for his commercial illustrations
but also for his paintings of Native Americans. He illustrated the
first Coca-Cola billboard in 1925 and produced work for numerous
magazines, including Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post. He
also produced paintings that The Coca-Cola Company used in newspaper
and magazine ads. One of his best-known works for The Coca-Cola
Company was an illustration of bears drinking Coke in Yellowstone
Born in Vermont, Stanley never took formal art training. After serving
as a soldier in World War I, he sold four paintings in New York
City and spent the rest of his career as a successful commercial
artist. The Coca-Cola Company was one of 28 companies that employed
his skill as an illustrator.
For years, folk artists used Coca-Cola as a subject for their artwork
because of its popularity. During the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta,
the Company orchestrated the Coca-Cola Olympic Salute to Folk Art
exhibit, which included the work of folk artists from 54 countries
who used indigenous materials to create Coca-Cola contour bottles.
These threedimensional sculptures ranged from two- to 12-feet tall.
In 1996, six American folk artists, selected with the advice of
representatives from the Museum of American Folk Art in New York,
were commissioned to create bottles representing the United States
for this exhibition. They were:
Howard Finster, Georgia (1916-2001) - A minister turned
folk art pioneer who lived in Summerville, Ga., Finster created
"Paradise Garden," a folk art interpretation of Eden.
Coca-Cola was a major theme in his work, including a pump house
made of Coca-Cola bottles as well as paintings on plywood cutouts
in the shape of the contour bottle. He produced witty paintings
covered with religious sayings. The High Museum of Art in Atlanta
has secured many pieces from Paradise Garden.
Stephen Huneck, Vermont - A former antique dealer, Huneck
carves dogs, cats and angels, not only as works of art, but as
furniture. His work is marked by good-natured humor and often
incorporates gold wings. Huneck's nine-foottall solid wood Coca-Cola
bottle features red, white and blue stripes, and is topped by
a gold-winged cow.
Lonnie Holley, Alabama - Born the seventh of 27 children
in Birmingham, Ala., Holley lived in a number of foster homes
as he grew up. In 1979, he turned to art when he created tombstones
out of sandstone. His work emphasizes the importance of recycling
and reclaiming objects that others consider trash. Known as the
"Sandman," his work includes sandstone carvings, found-object
assemblages and paintings.
Mary Shelley, New York - Shelley carves her work on rough-cut
white pine and paints the work with acrylics. Part of her series
on American diners, Mary's sixfoot- tall solid pine Coca-Cola
bottle features a typical scene from a 1950s diner, complete with
customers sipping Coca-Cola.
David Strickland, Texas - A former welder and native Texan,
Strickland is known for his whimsical sculptures crafted from
scrap metal and other castoffs. His eight-foot-tall bottle is
a colorful combination of antique farm machinery parts, with an
added touch - a section of an antique Coca-Cola vending machine.
Mr. Imagination (Gregory Warmack), Illinois - Warmack became Mr.
Imagination after surviving two gunshots to his stomach in 1978
and undergoing what he considers to have been an out-of-body experience.
He creates his work from bottle caps, string, used leather, cardboard
and discarded pieces of wood. His 10-foot-tall bottle, framed with
wood and plaster, is covered top to bottom with hand-pounded Coca-Cola