19th Century Prints, Engraving, Prints, Wood

Happy Holidays from The Old Print Gallery

Merry Christmas. Thomas Nast. Published in Harper's Weekly. Wood engraving, 1879. Vignette 20 x 13 1/2. LINK.

Merry Christmas. Thomas Nast. Published in Harper’s Weekly. Wood engraving, 1879. Vignette 20 x 13 1/2. LINK.

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Holiday 2014 Showcase- Read it Now!

Our new Holiday 2014 Showcase has been sent out to our mailing list, and should hit mailboxes this week. The month’s special holiday edition features a wide range of prints and maps from our collection.

Whether you are looking for a gift for a friend, loved one, or yourself, we offer marvelous examples of important historical scenes, holiday genre, early 20th century American masters, and contemporary fine art. The maps selected for this issue offer a visual “tour around the world”, beginning with three pages of double hemisphere world maps,  an extensive history and list of available state maps by 19th century map publisher Ormando W. Gray, as well as the original 1792 L’Enfant/Ellicott Plan of the City of Washington by Philadelphia-based engravers Thakara and Vallance. Those interested in historical prints will enjoy our prints of George Washington, War of 1812 battle scenes, and George Caleb Bingham’s Stump Speaking– one of the most important depictions of 19th century American politics. Get into the holiday spirit by perusing the wintry genre scenes by Currier and Ives, Thomas Nast, A. B. Frost, and more.

Prints by American masters George Bellows, Robert Riggs, Armin Landeck, Martin Lewis, and Reginald Marsh all appear on later pages of the catalog, followed by a selection of our original, hand-pulled works by DC, NY, regional, and international printmakers. These prints are an impressive and alluring display of the current eclecticism found in contemporary printmaking.

Published in both traditional and digital media formats, we are now able to share our fantastic collection in a whole new way.  We are already working on our next issue, which should arrive in February. To receive our next Showcase, just send us your mailing information, via email.

Read the 2014 Holiday Showcase:

The Old Print Gallery Showcase. Holiday Issue. Volume XXXVII, Number 4. Click to read here.

The Old Print Gallery Showcase. Holiday Issue. Volume XXXVII, Number 4.
Click to read here.

We hope you enjoy it!

19th Century Prints, Engraving, Gallery Updates, Prints, Wood

Holiday Hours


Holiday 2013 hours

19th Century Prints, Engraving, Prints, Wood

Thomas Nast and the Image of Santa Claus

Here We Are Again! by Thomas Nast. Wood engraving, 1878.

With Christmas quickly approaching, it seems only fitting to feature images of the holiday season. At the center of Christmas imagery is, of course, Santa Claus, and the man who popularized and cemented his image as a rounded, bearded jolly man- Thomas Nast.

Nast, a German immigrant who moved with his family to New York as a child, began his career as an illustrator for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. His career blossomed once he was hired by Harper’s Weekly in 1859, and he went on to be a war correspondent and journalistic crusader. A talented illustrator, his political depictions of republicans as elephants and democrats as donkeys are still in use today. At the peak of Nast’s career, he took on anyone he disagreed with- the Ku Klux Klan, dishonest politicians, and anarchists. His biting political cartoons were responsible for bringing down the notorious politician “Boss” William Marcy Tweed of Tammany Hall, whose crime ring financially depleted New York City after the Civil War.

Despite the political and serious leanings of Nast’s illustrations, he was also exceptionally talented at capturing the essence of goodwill towards men. His family and holiday scenes reflect a more personal side of Nast, and many included depictions of his own children, or are set in his home of Morristown, New Jersey.

Santa Claus in Camp by Thomas Nast. Wood engraving, 1863.

Thomas Nast first drew Santa Claus in Harper’s Weekly 1863 Christmas edition, with a cover and centerfold illustration. The Civil War was underway; the Union’s losses and the separation between soldiers and families were dampening the spirits of the Northern cities. The cover, “Santa Claus at Camp” depicted Santa Claus visiting soldiers in the camp with gifts and letters. From 1863 until 1886, Nast created a series of Christmas drawings for Harper’s Weekly. These drawings, executed over twenty years, exhibit a gradual evolution in Santa from the pudgy, diminutive, elf-like creature to the bearded, portly gift-giver of today.

Nast drew inspiration from his native German Saint Nicholas, a fourth century bishop, known for his kindness and generosity. He also pulled from other German folk traditions to add to the Santa Claus lore. The appearance of elves and a reindeer pulled sled are both products of Nast’s Germanic traditions. Nast solidified the image of Santa Clause for the American population. His illustrations created a rich and detail-driven story of Santa Clause- from the use of chimneys to deliver gifts, to the toy workshop in the North Pole. He invented the concept of the naughty-nice list, as well as the belief that Santa read letters from children.

Santa Claus and His Works by Thomas Nast. Wood engraving, 1866.

In 1889, friends from Harper’s Weekly encouraged Nast to gather his popular Christmas illustrations and publish them in one book- Christmas Drawings for the Human Race. Boasting 126 illustrations, the book is a beautiful chronicle of Nast’s holiday renderings.

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19th Century Maps, 19th Century Prints, Contemporary, Early 20th Century, Maps, Prints


FIND THE GIFTS HERE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

(click on image to enlarge)

Want more gift ideas? Check out our other Holiday Gift Guides: Gifts for the World Traveler and Gifts for the Foodie. And check back weekly for new suggestions!