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Medium-Based Research Essay-Kellogg’s Kid Portraits

The Kellogg’s kid portraits on display at the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California, depict a diverse collection of children of various ages, genders, and races. At first observation, they may appear to be ordinary portraits, but product placement and advertising are discernible upon closer inspection. Through an investigation of the original context and symbolism of the Kellogg’s kid portraits, it becomes clear that the artwork served as a tool for marketing and promoting Kellogg’s cereal products to children, reflecting the economic and cultural changes of early 20th century America (Harper and Misti Nicole, p.44). In this research-based essay, I will investigate the original context of Kellogg’s child portraits, analyzing their symbolism and relationship to the economic and cultural transformations of early 20th-century America. In doing so, I want to demonstrate that the artwork is not simply a collection of portraits but a carefully designed marketing and promotional tool for Kellogg’s cereal products aimed at children. Through this investigation, I also hope to cast light on the historical intersections between art and advertising in the larger social and cultural context in which the artwork was created.

The Kellogg’s company created Kellogg’s kid portraits to advertise breakfast cereals to children and families. These paintings were displayed during advertising campaigns using cereal boxes and promotional materials (Harper and Misti Nicole, p.44). Today, Kellogg’s kid portraits are considered significant advertising art, and paintings displayed in museums have gained popularity among art enthusiasts and collectors. The portraits depict children of different ages enjoying Kellogg’s cereals in various settings.

kids’ portrait

Figure 1: kids’ portrait

Kellogg’s kid portraits originated in California, USA, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when commercial art and advertisement were widely spread throughout the region. The individuals diligently carry out their work and daily responsibilities while embodying the essence of American culture. Elected officials, such as state legislatures and governors, ruled the region during this period. They placed Kellogg’s kid portraits in areas where they could be seen, like primary cereal boxes for advertisement purposes. During the period when Kellogg’s Kid Portraits were invented, President William McKinley held authority over the United States. This innovation occurred in the late 19th century, specifically in 1894, during President McKinley’s tenure in office from 1897 to 1901. Customers, including African families, accessed these portraits through billboards, newspapers, magazines, television, and radio campaigns.

The primary purpose of Kellogg’s kid portraits was to promote the advertisement of Kellogg’s cereals in California, especially to American families. The designs of the portraits were attractive to children, encouraging their parents to purchase the cereals for them. The symbols and signs in the portraits show children smiling to demonstrate their enjoyment of Kellogg’s cereals. The background of the portraits features Kellogg’s logo. The material used to make the portraits is wood due to its availability and durability. The visual elements of the work are playful, focusing on the joy of the children.

Kellogg’s kid portraits represent commercial art aimed at promoting a product, which is a cereal advertisement. Although they differ from other cultures, artists, and periods, their difference is recognized in their context and purposes. The creation of other works can be for commercial art, enhancing the selling of the product. However, Kellogg’s kid portraits and other cultures and periods have similarities in eye-catching images, playful depictions of daily life scenes, and promoting specific ideologies.

Japanese ukiyo-e print is another work of art that shares similarities with Kellogg’s kid portraits. They both design eye-catching images and enable sumo wrestling and Kabuki Theater advertisements. The Japanese ukiyo-e print is always colorful to serve the purpose of attraction (Kozbelt et al., p.35). Conversely, Kellogg’s kids’ portraits have visual features such as playful images with bright colors. Another similarity identified is an everyday depiction of scenes or subjects with different styles in a playful manner. Similarly, Japanese ukiyo-e print playfully portrays daily life scenes with different styles (Kozbelt et al., p.35).

Japanese ukiyo-e portrays.

Figure 2: Japanese ukiyo-e portrays.

However, there are also differences between Kellogg’s kid portraits and other works of art. Kid portraits were created for a specific purpose, which was to promote Kellogg’s cereals for parents to purchase for their children. Other works of art were created for different purposes, such as cultural, religious, and aesthetic. The kid portraits were made using illustrations of photographs, while other works of art used several mediums like paints and printmaking. Kid portraits were made in a modernized manner and with graphic styles, which does not apply to other works of art, whereby they are realistic and styled in different ways. The Kellogg’s kids’ portraits use altitudes and cultural values of 19th century of America, which is different from other works of art with different cultures and periods.

In conclusion, Kellogg’s kid portraits are a unique example of commercial art used for product advertisements. Although they differ from other works of art, they are important examples of how art enhances product advertisements and passes messages from one person to another. The differences between Kellogg’s kid portraits and other works of art are based on the purpose for which each was created. Nonetheless, Kellogg’s kid portraits are valid, current, and archived in museums, and they continue to attract various kinds of visitors to this archaeological site.


Harper, Misti Nicole. “Portrait of (an Invented) Lady.” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 78.1 (2019): 32-56.

Kozbelt, Aaron, and Yana Durmysheva. “Lifespan creativity in a non-Western artistic tradition: A study of Japanese ukiyo-e printmakers.” The International Journal of Aging and Human Development 65.1 (2007): 23-51.

Menino, City Hall Mayor. “Fallen lift kills one, injures another near West St. dorm.”


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