December Mailbag No 1

‘Father Christmas up to date’ ... Santa riding a motor car laden with toys, from Life magazine, 1896 Photograph: Time Life Pictures/The Life Picture Collection/Getty (1)

The hero image for our Mailbag comes from 1896 when Life Magazine decided to modernise Santa which I find delightful. If you would like to see a visual record of the evolution of Saint Nick please follow the bookmark link below to a wonderful article published by The Guardian in 2014.1

Here comes Santa Claus: a visual history of Saint Nick – in pictures
See how the great man has morphed from Nikolaos the wonder-worker in the fourth century to the jolly man in red we know and love today ... get ready for frescoes, stick-em-ups and Norman Rockwell

And you might be surprised to learn that children have been writing to Santa for nearly 150 years. Back in 1925 in the Tampa Day Times: St. Petersburg, Florida – 1925: the following letter to Santa from Horace Percy Greenapple was published.

“My Dear Mr. Santa Claus: I take the liberty of writing you at this seemingly early date to remind you that I have changed my address from Boston Mass., to St. Petersburg, Florida, and should be quite up set, Mr. Claus if you by some error, perhaps not of your own, but of one of your many assistants, took my gifts to our old address. I hope you will not think me greedy for I am told you dislike that in all small boys, when I ask you to leave in or rather around my stocking or stocking’s a complete addition of the “Book of Knowledge,” and “in Tune With the Infinite.” My parents whom you have probably encountered in their youth have been for the past ten years connected with Harvard college, and I feel sure that they would be charmed to have you make your annual visit to us here in St. Petersburg. I will be twelve my next birthday, and while I have never mingled with other small boys my age, I am sure that I shall not feel the lack of any young companions if you accede to my request. Hoping you and Mrs. Claus are in the best of health and that you will enjoy your trip south. I remain, Horace Percy Greenapple.” 2

Armed with a huge box of tissues you might like to read some more of these letters to Santa by clicking here.

And D in Bendigo alterted me to one of the loveliest Christmas tree I have seen.

It is on display at Newmans Nursery in Tea Tree Gully South Australia 3 and D spotted it on the nursery's Facebook page. Please note these people are not related to me but I do love their creative spirit.

Quite close to the top of the AnArt4Life blog mailbag is a reaction from Trevor in Canberra to the posts written on Sheep, Shearers and Sheds.

Trevor has reminded me that if we are going to refer to the famous painting Shearing the Rams by Tom Roberts it is mandatory to also refer to the almost equally famous image Ramming the Shears created in 1984 by Michael Leunig.

One of the most irreverent and clever reinterpretations of Shearing the rams is Ramming the shears, 1984 by Michael Leunig. Leunig is an astute observer of Australian society. His witty reinterpretation of Roberts’s paintings is both humourous and thought provoking in the questions it raises about Australian national identity. Ramming the shears first appeared in Leunig’s regular spot in ‘The Age’, but it gained wider circulation in 1985 when it was used on the cover of a book of Leunig’s cartoons.4

The artist Tom Roberts who painted Shearing the Rams was a member of the Heidelberg School, an Australian art movement of the late 19th century. Another member of the school was Frederick McCubbin and for over a hundred years one of his paintings titled Found has been lost. No one knew where this painting had disappeared to. And now Caroline has alerted us to the news that Found has been found!

Below you can watch the video and learn where and how the painting was found and how lockdown played a part in the discovery!

And now moving onto Port Elliot in South Australia where subscriber and artist John Wylie had a catch up with his mate Paul Whitehead also a local artist.

As John recounts:
We had great conversations about Paul’s painting career in London & Australia. They just got back from a holiday in the Flinders Ranges SA... camping in a creek bed one night they nearly got flooded out with a torrent of water coming down after rain up north!!

Paul has just completed a painting titled – “Morning Mist” set in Hahndorf (Adelaide Hills) with dairy cows grazing in a foggy field - the “hairs” on the back of one cow "shine” in the morning sun light...I purchased a small “print” (below).

If you would like to see more of the works by Paul Whitehead please click here.

Morning Mist by Paul Whitehead 

And finally D in Bendigo has also recommended that if you are a Victorian you might like to take in the latest exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery by First Nations designers and artists.

Below you can read about the exhibition and also watch a wonderful 12 minute curator lead tour of Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion.

Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion
Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion brings together a selection of garments and textiles by First Nations designers and arti