Great Artists on Stamps

The American public is being encouraged to buy more stamps to support the US Postal Service. Buying stamps is easy, but getting a design accepted for use on a stamp is not so easy. It takes about three years from the time an idea for a stamp is submitted to the time that it’s issued and made available to the public.

The stamp designs are not always issued without controversy. Even the stamp of Whistlers’s Mother, released in 1934 to honor the Mothers of America on Mother’s Day, created an unexpected stir.

Whistler’s Mother stamp, 1934

The famous 1873 painting by James McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1, was criticized because it was cropped to fit the horizontal stamp format and a vase of flowers was added to the lower left hand corner in honor of Mother’s Day.

In a telegram to the postmaster general, a group called the American Artists Professional League charged that the stamp represented a “mutilation of the artist’s original picture, thereby robbing it of much of its charm.” Alfred H. Barr, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, which had opened in 1929, and had borrowed the painting from the Louvre, was also critical of the stamp, saying that if Whistler “were alive today he would be enraged.”

Tens of thousands of proposals are sent to the Post Office for consideration every year.The stamp designs must reflect a subject that has had significant impact on American history, culture or environment. A person must have been deceased for at least three years before being considered for placement on a stamp. The designs are chosen by a voluntary Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, whose members are chosen by the Postmaster General. Committee members have expertise in history, science, technology, art, education, sports, and other areas of public interest.

The Stamp Development department of the USPS works with art directors who, in turn, work with professional designers, artists, illustrators, and photographers to produce the stamp art, one of the most visible forms of public art.

Some of the art on our stamps have been done by many of the artists whose works can be found at Surovek Gallery.

Andrew Wyeth 1917-2009

Jamie Wyeth, son of Andrew Wyeth, spoke at the July 12, 2017 dedication of the stamps honoring his father.

The stamp, which features Christina’s World, was one of a series of twelve, picturing work by Andrew Wyeth, released to commemorate what would have been his 100th birthday.

According to Wyeth’s son, artist Jamie Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth was a prolific letter-writer who used a lot of stamps.

Andrew Wyeth
Main Gaff, 1983
Watercolor on paper
21 x 28 inches
Signed: Andrew Wyeth (l.l.)
For sale at Surovek Gallery

Alexander Calder 1898-1976

USPS stamps, issued in 1998, including Alexander Calder’s featuring Portrait of a Young Man (1945) and Rearing Stallion (1928).

A series of five stamps, commemorating the works of Alexander Calder, were issued in 1998.

Alexander Calder
Enmeshed Jewel, 1969
Gouache on paper
29 x 42.5 inches
Signed and dated (l.r.)
Registration #A14428
For sale at Surovek Gallery

Calder began his career making illustrations for the National Police Gazette in 1924. By 1976, one of his major mobile-stabiles was on view in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

Mary Cassatt 1844-1926

Although Mary Cassatt was a great American artist, she lived and worked in France during most of her life.

Many of her works focused on the theme of Mother and Child, partly because at the turn of the century, it would not have been appropriate for Cassatt to be alone in her studio with male models and, as a woman, she did not have access to the cafes and clubs that her male counterparts were able to frequent and use as painting subjects.

Mary Cassatt
Sketch of a Mother Looking Down at Thomas
Pastel counter proof mounted to back of mat
26 7/8 x 29 1/4 inches
For sale at Surovek Gallery

Postal Service art director, Derry Noyes, who designed some of the stamps, said that Cassatt’s subject matter was particularly well suited to the stamp medium: “Women and children, they just worked so well together.”

The Works of Andrew Wyeth, Alexander Calder and Mary Cassatt at Surovek Gallery

Please contact us if you would like more information about the works of Andrew Wyeth, Alexander Calder, Mary Cassatt or any of the other fine artists available at Surovek Gallery.

References:
Postal Times. Postal Service Art Director Derry Noyes Turns Famous Artworks into Stamps. PostalTimes. February 20, 2019.
Works of Art. Link USPS dedicates Andrew Wyeth Stamps. July 12, 2017.
Greg Daugherty. The 11 Most Controversial Stamps in U.S. History. History April 16, 2018.
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