Wednesday, 30 October 2013

FREE Illuminated Bible quote

I've gone from 20th century magazines and advertising to illuminated books this week - I get to cover so much in this job!

This beautiful illuminated page is from a book entitled Guide to the Art of Illumination & Missal Painting from forever ago - 1861.

It's well and truly out of copyright so you can use this lovely, uncompressed page for card-making and it would look great in an old frame.  Make coordinating gifts and cards this year!


Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Santa & Coke myth dispelled

It seems to be a widely believed fact that the modern-day image of Santa, or more properly Father Christmas here in the UK, came about following adverts for Coca-cola in the 1930s.

My sister, for one, was refusing to believe me that this wasn't the case when the subject came up in the approach to Christmas last year.  But it's true, she said, I read it recently - Santa was depicted in other colours until Coke made him red in their advertising campaigns of the 30s.

This was the proof I offered her that this just isn't the case.  This picture is by one of my favourite Victorian artists, Lizzie Mack (nee Lawson) from a book called Old Father Christmas from 1888:-

He's looking pretty much like he does today here, doesn't he - but this is 40 years or so before Coke's advertising campaigns.  So what's the real story?

The colours of Santa Claus are widely thought to derive from the original Saint Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra in the 4th century.  Red and white were the hues of traditional bishops' robes, although some historians argue that he originally dressed in different colours.

There was little variation in the red outfit worn, although over time the bishop's cloak and mitre were replaced by the fur-trimmed suit.

There are records, and indeed vintage pictures, cards and postcards which depict Santa in other colours such as green and blue but by far the most popular was the red outfit we're familiar with today.

This is one of the 1930s Coke adverts:-

Between 1863 and 1886, Thomas Nast produced a series of engravings for Harper's weekly, developing an image very similar to the modern day one - and from these engravings the idea of Santa's workshop and writing letters to Santa developed.

This is one of Thomas Nast's coloured engravings from Harper's Weekly 1865:-

As you can see, Santa was Santa long before Coke came along!  Coca-Cola's involvement begins in the early 1930s when Swedish artist Haddon Sundblom started drawing ads for Coke showing a fat Santa in a red coat trimmed with fur, fastened with a large belt.  His drawings were used by Coke for the next 30 years, well and truly cementing the image as we know it.

You can get the uncompressed Lizzie Mack and Thomas Nast Santa images on our Vintage Christmas DVD at

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Another FREE House & Garden image...

There are lots of vintage ads for Kohler Bathrooms, another company that's been around for years - established 1873 and still going strong today.  This one's a typical example:-

I think it's signed C.O. or C.Q. Moran but I can't trace this artist at all, shame.  It's from a 1926 edition of the American House & Garden magazine.


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Beautiful FREE Pastel Cat Image

This fluffy feline is another delicious delight from a vintage magazine, American House & Garden, this time from 1929.

It comes from an advert for Thibaut wallpaper, an American company which was founded in 1886 and still exists today.

As far as I can establish, this picture is out of copyright - certainly in the States at least but most probably in the UK too (although it's not stated who the artist is).

There are more pictures in the same vein although this one's probably the best one.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

FREE 1920s lady picture

I've spent the last few days trawling through old magazines, especially the American House & Garden magazine from the 1920s.  

There are lots of beautiful adverts in these old magazines, from a time when illustration was still the order of the day and photography hadn't taken over.

This one's by an American artist called Pruett Carter:-

Through the little foibles of US copyright law, this one's out of copyright even though Pruett Carter didn't die until 1955 - so it's free to be used in whatever way you like.

I'll dig some more out over the next few days. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

FREE Vintage Halloween Image

Here's a rather nice Halloween image that's out of copyright so you're free to do with it whatever you want to!

This is from a cover of the Canadian Home Journal magazine 1922 is by an artist called Emily Hand.  

Our great Halloween DVD is now available at - more than 300 cardmaking sheets, spooky photos, vintage images and clipart.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Oscar Wilde & Aubrey Beardsley

Doh!  I've already blogged today and I've just seen that it's the anniversary of Oscar Wilde's birthday, which immediately led me to Aubrey Beardsley - and I can't miss an opportunity to show some of his work!

Wilde and Beardsley had somewhat of an antagonistic relationship - I'd always thought that they must have been lovers but I can't see any evidence of that.

I didn't realise that the Picture of Dorian Gray was Oscar Wilde's only novel.  I remember watching the black and white film when I was a child and I think it freaked me out a bit - its macabre story has certainly stayed with me over the years.

This last Aubrey Beardsley picture is for Oscar Wilde's play Salome.  Some of his pen and ink work is just as macabre as Oscar Wilde's plays!

American Illustrators - Coles Phillips

In the last week I've been looking at the work of American Illustrators including Coles Phillips - his work is, in my opinion, just fabulous!

Clarence Coles Phillips (1880-1927) originally signed his work C. Coles Phillips but after 1911, dropped the C. and started signing his work just Coles Phillips.

He is known for his stylish images of women and in particular for his use of negative space in the paintings he created for advertisements and the covers of magazines.

After leaving college in his native state of Ohio, Phillips moved to Manhattan, determined to make a living through his art.  He took night classes for just 3 months, his only formal artistic training, before establishing his own advertising agency.

Phillips was hired onto the staff of Life magazine in 1907, a magazine he would stay associated with for the rest of his life.  His work quickly became popular with Life readers and in 1908 his first 'fadeaway' girl cover appeared, a design where the figure's clothes matched, and disappeared into, the background.  This technique was subsequently developed and used for many covers.

From 1905 until his death, Phillips lived and worked in Rochelle, New York, where he also raised pigeons. He died of a long-standing kidney complaint in 1927.

You can get high-resolution versions of these images in our 50-image Coles Phillips graphics collection at