Santa Claus 266 by Andy Warhol is one of ten screenprints from the artist’s Myths portfolio created in 1981. Warhol was famously drawn to the glamor and glitz of old Hollywood. He produced an array of celebrity portraitures, featuring the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, and Mick Jagger, among many others. He also traversed out of the realm of entertainment into sports and politics, with prints like Mao and Muhammad Ali. His Myths collection, however, strays even further from his conventional work. The celebrity factor remains unchanged, as the subjects of his prints are globally-recognized cultural icons, though they originate from the pages of beloved fantastical stories, allegorical tales, and folklore, all widely popularized through media. The artist demonstrates through his artworks that anyone, real or imaginary, can be a celebrity.
Santa Claus 266 is one of the more unique images from the series, depicting the mascot of the ultra “famous” Christian holiday. Warhol’s obsessions extended far beyond celebrity culture and fame. It is said that he considered each of the Myths characters to reflect attributes of his own deeply eccentric personality. As for Christmas, the festive holiday combines some of Warhol’s favorite things—color, excess, materialism, spirituality, togetherness, and celebration. His endless love for Christmas sparked inspiration for an array of artworks, including drawings of wreaths and angels, Christmas trees, striped candy canes, poinsettias, and ornaments. Before producing genre-defining art destined for the most upscale galleries and museums, Warhol worked as a highly paid commercial illustrator, designing Christmas cards for Tiffany & Co and the MoMA bookshop. Although he enjoyed carousing the nights away at The Factory, even the party king himself enjoyed a good holiday like any other. Santa Claus 266 humanizes the famed artist, paradoxically revealing an aspect of his personality through a larger-than-life cultural figure.
Warhol’s Santa Claus 266 captures all the twinkling sentimental gloss of the famed holly jolly present-giver. The subject peeks out from behind his thin spectacles and addresses us with a warm, mischievous gaze. His white beard covers a large portion of the frame, resembling a soft field of feathery snow. The figure’s light features contrast heavily against the festive red-gold background. While Santa Claus 266 lacks the striking colors and vibrant tracings that frequent Warhol’s works, these elements alone instill a powerful sense of nostalgia among viewers. We imagine ourselves perched beneath a decorated tree, eagerly awaiting our presents. The print is inlaid with diamond dust, a glimmering substance further enhancing the treasured character’s glamor and charm.