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Friday, 17 August 2018 00:00

The life of Dorothy Wilding

Dorothy Wilding was born on January 10, 1893 as the last of a large family of 10 children who lived near Gloucester. She was passed on to a childless aunt and uncle in Cheltenham, aged just four. Her initial ambition was to be an actress, but her uncle refused to let her go on stage so Wilding resolved: ‘It was then that I decided that if I ever were going to free myself, I must have sufficient money to keep me until I could get some sort of job’. One day she saw a camera in a shop window in Cheltenham, and according to her memoirs thought: ‘If they won’t allow me to be an actress, or paint portraits, I’ll do it through the camera instead’. At the age of 16 Wilding taught herself the art of photography, from lighting to retouching. She finally persuaded her family to let her move to London. She was apprenticed as a retoucher in a Knightsbridge portrait studio, but by 1915 had saved enough money (£60) to lease a studio in George Street, Portman Square.

Stars and a Prince
Initially she was unable to afford a proper lighting set-up, and so took her pictures in daylight, and developed them at night. She prospered and rented a larger studio near to Regent Street, as well as employing assistants. She later moved her business to Bond Street, and soon was attracting theatre stars to her studio. In 1929 a 17-year-old Prince George (later Duke of Kent) sat for her and became her first Royal portrait. Around this time she was falling in love with her second husband, Rufus Leighton-Pearce, whom she married some years later after his divorce from an alcoholic wife.

Early in 1935 a Mrs. Wallis Simpson booked a portrait sitting, and she was accompanied to the appointment by the Prince of Wales. In fact, at the time Wilding was at her country cottage and she had to direct the shoot down the telephone to her assistant. The results pleased the Prince, and often appeared in newspapers during the 1936 abdication crisis.

The telephone call which changed Wilding’s philatelic legacy came on January 12, 1937 when she was summoned to Buckingham Palace to photograph the new Queen (who had only moved in that morning). According to Wilding: ‘A sweet voice said “Oh, Miss Wilding, I’m so glad we meet at last”, and a warm little hand grasped mine in hers, and held it for so long, and so tight, that for a moment my mind went blank’.

Whilst the shoot continued King George VI entered the room dressed in the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet. Wilding suggested: ‘Your Majesty, don’t you think The Queen looks a little lonely standing there without you? If you joined her, I could make such a lovely portrait of you both’. The King replied: ‘Why not?’ The double portrait was adapted to appear on the 11/2d red-brown Coronation issue of May 13, 1937. Shortly after the photo shoot Dorothy Wilding was awarded the Royal Warrant, and in May 1937 became the first woman to be the official photographer to a King and Queen at their Coronation.

New York studio
At this point Wilding opened a studio in New York. It was here that she photographed George Bernard Shaw, Douglas Fairbanks, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Tallulah Bankhead and Gracie Fields amongst others. Her constant commuting across the Atlantic often meant that a Wilding portrait wasn’t exactly that – a 1946 photograph of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret was actually taken by one of her assistants.

1948 saw Wilding’s photographs being adapted for the Silver Wedding issue – the 21/2d ultramarine by George Knipe and the £1 blue by Joan Hassall. The sad passing of King George VI on February 6, 1952 ironically provided Wilding with the single most famous photograph she ever took.

Within a week of the King’s death Wilding has been scheduled to shoot a new portrait of The Queen, with a view to using it for definitive stamps. The session took place on February 26, 1952 with The Queen wearing an off-the-shoulder Norman Hartnell dress and a tiara. The shots reached the Post Office on March 7 of that year and showed four full profiles, two three-quarter face images, and looking right and left profiles on light and dark backgrounds.
Further photos from the sitting were supplied on May 5, 1952 and the first two Wildings stamps – the 11/2d green and the 21/2d carmine-red – were issued on December 5, 1952. The Wilding shoot also provided three out of the four Coronation stamps from June 3, 1953, and the famous Castle definitives series of 1955-58. Wilding’s relationship with the Royal family, as their favoured photographer, continued right up until 1958 when she decided to sell her Bond Street studio, aged 65. She had closed the 56th Street, Manhattan, studio in 1957.

Fading from view
After her retirement Wilding faded from the public consciousness, and she passed away in a nursing home on February 9, 1976 after a long illness. At the time her death hardly got even a line of obituary.

As well as appearing on the straightforward GB definitives the Wilding portrait also appeared as part of a host of GB commemoratives. Designer Jeffery Matthews resurrected the Wilding photograph for the 1986 set of two to mark the Queen’s 60th birthday.

On top of the array of GB Wildings, the Wilding imagery has often featured on country stamps from across the Commonwealth including a 2002 prestige postcard set from Australia Post. GB collectors have also been treated to two new miniature sheets showing all of the original 18 Wilding British definitives with updated values – the second of which is out on May 20, 2003.

Published in Designers
Friday, 17 August 2018 00:00

Czeslaw Slania's GB stamp designs

Master stamp engraver Czeslaw Slania received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Royal Mail on March 19, 2002. Slania’s connection with Royal Mail goes back over 20 years. In 1982 he engraved the portraits of Henry VIII and four of the outstanding personalities in the history of the Royal Navy for the Maritime Heritage series. Portraiture has always been regarded as Slania’s greatest forte, but in this set he also engraved the ships in the background. – if you examine them under a high-powered magnifier you will appreciate the skill and precision involved. These portraits of Blake, Nelson, Fisher and Cunningham were the most expressive likenesses to appear on any British stamps up to that time.

Mailcoach set
Two years later Slania engraved the coaching scenes for the strip of five 16p stamps commemorating the bi-centenary of the mailcoach service (introduced by John Palmer in 1784). On this occasion it seemed appropriate to reproduce old coaching prints, a very popular art medium of the early 19th century. Slania had a set of old prints as his models but his reworking of the images was entirely his own. The period flavour was enhanced by the deliberate retention of the mixed fonts of type that captioned the originals. Each of these coaching scenes is a masterpiece in miniature, with a wealth of architectural detail, a masterly delineation of the restless horses and, the different types of coach for good measure. Slania actually improved on the originals, especially the print showing the Exeter Mail being attacked by a lion (an escapee from a travelling circus, back in 1816).

At the time it seemed the microscopic detail in the coaching stamps could never be surpassed, yet a few years later Slania did just that when he engraved the motifs for the quartet marking the 150th anniversary of the accession of Queen Victoria. This time the designer was faced with the huge problem of trying to convey the extraordinary spread of events, personalities, and achievements of Victoria’s reign.

The solution was to present a montage of images on each stamp. The chief one in each case, was a portrait of Victoria representing different periods in her reign, but three subsidiary motifs appeared alongside. The portrait of Prince Albert on the 22p is much smaller than that of his wife, but examine it under a magnifying glass and you will begin to appreciate the amazing detail that it contains. The same is true of the lively portrait of Disraeli on the 31p, but it is the sensitive rendering of Grace Darling (18p) and the newspaper boy (34p) that shows Slania on top form. These individual details tend to blind us to the fact that he is equally at home with portraiture and genre scenes, landscapes, images of ships and machinery and even the florid lettering on the first edition of Mrs. Beeton’s famous cookery book.

Rowland Hill bi-centenary
The Pioneers of Communication set of four released in September 1995 linked the bi-centenary of the birth of Sir Rowland Hill to the centenary of Guglielmo Marconi’s first successful experiment with wireless telegraphy. For this Slania was required to engrave two portraits of each man at different periods in their lives. Not only did he convey the likenesses of both men but also injected subtle qualities that bespoke a contrast in the psychological profiles early and late in their respective careers. In all four stamps there was a wealth of background detail, and it was particularly interesting to see how well Slania had handled the depiction of the Penny Black on the 25p stamp.

Slania also engraved the Royal Mail set of stamps devoted to British posting boxes – entitled Pillar to Post – released in October 2002, but there are two other GB issues to his credit which might have been overlooked. In March 1999 the Castles high values were superseded by a set of four using the Machin profile of the Queen. Hitherto this design had been printed in photogravure or offset lithography, but now it was rendered in intaglio – a process more appropriate to the prestigious high values of the long-running series. To Slania fell the honour of translating Arnold Machin’s timeless image into line engraving, and it is interesting to compare these stamps with their photogravure and litho cousins.

Enschedé recess-printed the large format Machin 1st class stamps which were confined to the prestige booklet released in February 1999. This booklet was quite a tour de force, as it offered versions of this stamp in the three different processes used for British stamps before the advent of photogravure and offset lithography – embossing, intaglio and letterpress. In the case of the intaglio version, it was Slania who was responsible for the engraving.

First philatelic work
His first work in the philatelic medium was the portrait of Jaroslav Dabrowski on a stamp celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Paris Commune which was issued on March 24, 1951. The battle scene alongside the portrait was engraved by M.R. Polak. In June 1951 Slania designed the double-portrait 45gr stamp in the series honouring Polish scientists. In July 1951 he engraved the splendid portrait of President Beirut for the set of three marking the seventh anniversary of the restored Republic – the vignettes at the sides showing industry and agriculture were engraved by Polak. A remarkable debut year was rounded off in December by the release of the set of three stamps publicising the ‘Mining Six Year Plan’ which Slania both designed and engraved.

In a rare interview we discussed his remarkable career with Czeslaw Slania. We had read somewhere that he had studied at the Albertina in Vienna, but he told us that he had never been a formal student there: ‘I just studied the collections there in order to educate myself and improve my understanding of different techniques of design and engraving in a small compass. I have always been fascinated by miniature works of art, and my professors recognised quite early on that I had a talent for working in such a confined and exacting medium’.
Slania’s teachers: ‘…also felt that I would be ideally suited for stamp engraving and sent me round Europe to study the techniques used in different security printing firms. In my final year as a student I was recruited by the Director of the Government Printing Works in Warsaw, specifically to work as an engraver of banknotes and stamps’.

Over a five year period he engraved (and often designed) some 40 Polish stamps, but a very promising career was cut short by the political upheavals that tore Poland apart in 1956. Czeslaw Slania went into voluntary exile that year. His last Polish stamp was the 60gr of the Melbourne Olympic Games set, released on November 2, 1956. By that time he had settled in Sweden, which has been his home ever since. He has now engraved stamps for over 24 countries over the intervening 47 years (plus work for the United Nations Philatelic Administration). He was commissioned by his native country to engrave the miniature sheet for the Polska ‘93 international philatelic exhibition. The result was a tour de force – a large 50,000 zloty miniature sheet showing in incredible detail Lech’s legendary encounter with the White Eagle after the Battle of Gniezno, the sheet margins being decorated with the arms of the Polish provinces.

Swedish work
In 1959 Slania obtained employment at the Stamp Printing Office in Stockholm and was commissioned to translate the self-portrait of Anders Zorn into a pair of stamps released in February 1960. In four decades, Czeslaw Slania, as Court Engraver to H.M. the King of Sweden, has engraved the dies for some of the most beautiful stamps ever produced in Sweden – especially the very large stamps of relatively recent years.

On March 17, 2000 Sweden marked his 1,000th stamp engraving with a stamp which reproduced in majestic detail David Klöcker Ehrenfeldt’s ceiling fresco entitled ‘Great Deeds of Swedish Kings’. It is also now noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest engraved stamp ever!

From May 1962 until October 1988 he engraved numerous stamps for Denmark and, indeed, between 1966 and 1978 he seems to have enjoyed a virtual monopoly, later sharing the work with Arne Kuhlmann. In the same period he also engraved many of the stamps issued by Greenland, from the Frederik IX definitives of 1963 onwards. In fact, all of Greenland’s definitive stamps up to the Queen Margrethe series of 1990-95 came from his burin.

In 1974 Slania was appointed Court Engraver to H.S.H. Prince Rainier III and since then has engraved many fine stamps for Monaco (where he now resides in the winter months). Slania was awarded the Ordre de Saint Charles by Prince Rainier (a keen philatelist). Apart from the charming vignettes in the ‘Bygone Monaco’ series he has been responsible for the vast majority of the stamps portraying the Monegasque Royal family. Although portraiture is undoubtedly his metier, he has demonstrated his versatility in other fields, and from Monaco came his superb large-sized 8fr stamp of 1987 appropriately celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Philatelic Bureau. He also engraved the stamps portraying Princess Grace, released simultaneously by Monaco and the US in March 1993.

Portrait secrets
When asked about the secret of his success in portraits Slania explained: ‘I examine the picture first of all from the consideration of the light. Then, having looked at it from every angle, I work out in my mind how best to convey this impression in the two-dimensional medium of the postage stamp. This entails reducing the elements of the picture essentially to combinations of lines and dots’.

As well as postage stamps Slania has produced various sets of labels or stamp essays. He engraved a series of 23 ‘stamps’ portraying famous boxers, from John L. Sullivan to Muhammad Ali (boxing has been a passion all his life). He is also interested in film stars and decided to engrave a portrait of a movie actress each year. Among his essays is a self-portrait which he executed to mark his 60th birthday, and another portraying his mother Jozefa Slania, marking her 95th birthday in March 1992. Other essays include a portrait of John F. Kennedy and, most intriguing of all, an essay for a Polish 90gr stamp in the heroic genre which he designed and engraved in 1950 as part of his diploma examination.

We asked Czeslaw Slania to select his own favourite stamp designs. They include the panoramic view of Ksiaz Castle which he engraved for Poland in 1999; the 800 lire stamp of the Vatican in 2000 portraying fellow-countryman, Pope John Paul II; portraits of Jenny Lind (Sweden) and Grace Kelly (Monaco); the Pierrot writing (Monaco); his engraving of the old fiddler by Anders Zorn (Sweden); and the rendering of the silver coffee jug (Sweden).

Although now 81 Slania has no plans to retire. He says that he will continue to engrave stamps as long as he finds this exacting medium a challenge, otherwise he will stop. For the record, he has engraved over 1,050 stamps so far, but others are in the pipeline.

Source: slaniastamps-heindorffhus.com

Published in Designers
Friday, 17 August 2018 00:00

Paul McCartney - suprise stamp designer

In July 2002 the tiny island in the Irish Sea – the Isle of Man – sprang a philatelic surprise with a set of stamps designed by the musician Sir Paul McCartney. Philatelic bureau officials on the island had discovered that the former Beatle had spent some time on the island as a boy, and promptly wrote to him to suggest the possibility of a stamp design. To their delight McCartney agreed.

McCartney spent some time studying stamp designs from around the world and, in the end, plumped for a simple design as he felt that other issues he’d seen had more impact when they were kept simple. The result was six floral style designs which are entitled ‘Happy Memories of the Isle of Man’.

Isle of Man Stamp Bureau Manager Dot Tilbury explained: ‘When we received Paul’s designs they so cheered up the whole department that we christened them “Happy Stamps” – a theme Paul loves as it reflected his inspiration from fond memories he had of the island from a childhood visit’.

Proceeds from the sale of the issue have been donated to the Adopt A Minefield UK anti-landmine charity which is fronted by McCartney and his second wife Heather Mills-McCartney. McCartney commented: ‘I’m very pleased that the Adopt A Minefield campaign has benefited from this issue which I was honoured to create from happy memories of an old stamping ground’.

Published in Designers

The modern artist and stamp collector/designer Friedensreich Hundertwasser was born in Vienna on December 15, 1928 as Friedrich Stowasser. Hundertwasser's fame was cemented by a mid-1970s world tour of his work through museums in the five continents.

In 1969 Hundertwasser bought an old wooden sailing boat that he took to Venice, rebuilt, and renamed Regentag (Rainy Day). For the next three years he sailed her around the Adriatic coast and painted as he went.

The filmmaker Peter Schamoni shot the film Hundertwasser Regentag on the boat and it was showcased at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. It was at this time that Hundertwasser developed more of an interest in the environment and in 1979 he 'went to war' against pollution. This was represented in most of his paintings.Painting with spirals

In 1949 Friedrich Stowasser, changed his name to Hundertwasser (100 calm waters) and began his extensive travels. He hated using straight lines and in 1953 he began painting with spirals.

In a remarkable artistic leap he moved from architectural macrocosm to the postage stamp. Hundertwasser had inherited a stamp collection from his father but had sold it to finance his first ever exhibition, at the Art Club in Vienna.

In an almost 30-year stamp career he designed around 30 stamps - for Austria, Cape Verde, Cuba, France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Senegal and the United Nations. Although it wasn't specifically commissioned, his first stamp was for Cuba in 1967. It was part of a set to publicise the Salon De Mayo contemporary art exhibition in Havana. The 1c value showed his painting Night of the Drunken Female (Noche De La Bebedora).

It wasn't until 1975 that the Austrian Post Office commissioned Hundertwasser to design a stamp to inaugurate its Modern Art in Austria series. He chose a spiral tree design that was reproduced on a 4-schilling value (engraved by Wolfgang Seidel). This was followed by a series of Art stamps by artists chosen by Hundertwasser.

When President Leopold Senghor of Senegal opened the Salzburg Festival in 1977 he requested a meeting with Hundertwasser. This resulted in a friendship that led to Hundertwasser being invited to Dakar and whilst there he designed three stamps - The Black Trees, The Head, and The Rainbow Windows - that were issued on December 10, 1979.

By this time his philatelic reputation was established and, conscious of the immense far-flung power of postal communication, he devoted his production to images illustrating his innermost convictions. One such case was the 35th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1983. For it, Hundertwasser produced six stamp designs for the United Nations - two each for the UN offices in New York, Geneva and Vienna. They were Window Right and Treaty With Nature (US currency); Homo Humus Humanitas and Droit De Creer (Swiss currency); and Die Zweue Haut and Recht Auf Traume (Austrian currency). In 1984 he won the prize for the best stamp design of 1983 for the 1.20 Swiss franc stamp from the set. Also, in 1997 Hundertwasser was awarded a Grand Prix of German Philately at the Philatelia show in Cologne.

Under the auspices of the UN he designed stamps for the Earth Summit series of the Council of Europe in Vienna in 1993 and the stamps for the World Social Summit at Copenhagen in 1995. As well as this when Luxembourg became the cultural capital of Europe in 1995 he was asked to design an issue of three stamps.

Mark of national identity
In 1990 Hundertwasser wrote: 'A stamp must experience its destiny. A true stamp must feel the tongue of its sender when its glue is licked. It must experience the dark inside of the letterbox. The stamp must bear the postmark, it must feel the Postman's hand - a stamp that has not been sent on a letter is not a stamp as it has never lived. It is a precious piece of art that reaches everybody as a present from afar. The stamp must bear witness to culture, beauty and human creativity. The most viable mark of national identity becomes the most effective way to convey the message of harmony'.

In 1980 he flew to Washington DC where he was received by the Mayor, Marion Barry Jr., in person and November 18, 1980 was declared 'Hundertwasser's Day'.

Hundertwasser began to spend six months of the year in New Zealand and the other six months in Austria. He died after suffering a heart attack onboard the QE2 travelling back from New Zealand on February 19, 2000.

Following his passing in 2000, Austria issued a miniature sheet in his honour and as recently as October 22, 2004 Austria Post issued a stamp based on a Hundertwasser design and engraved by Wolfgang Seidel.

Published in Designers
Friday, 17 August 2018 00:00

Stamps designer David Gentleman

David Gentleman’s stamp designs have been inspirational for over 40 years and 100 different Grat Britain designs. His father was Tom Gentleman, who was a very good artist and was noted for his work in watercolours and oils, particularly for posters and children’s books. His mother, Winifred, was also an accomplished painter.

After attending grammar school, it was a year at St. Albans Art School, before National Service in the army. After the army he passed the entrance exam for the Royal College of Art. Gentleman explained: ‘During those years I was privileged to have been in such close proximity with good teachers, such as Edward Bawden and John Nash, who had a strong influence on me’. After three years as a student he stayed at the Royal College for a further two years as a Junior Tutor.

Early work
His introduction to Royal Mail came with the 1962 set of three stamps for National Productivity Year. Gentleman recalled: ‘No specific brief was provided for the NPY issue, although a logo had already been designed’. Several designers were invited to submit ideas, and Gentleman’s were selected. He said: ‘I quickly grasped the essence of designing to a small scale. My aim was to keep the designs simple; to ensure they will print well; to make them interesting and beautiful; to be meaningful; to keep the inessentials out; to ensure that The Queen’s portrait is an integral part of the design and not an intrusion; to make the final result look inevitable, even though achieving that aim may have meant a great deal of hard work’.

That year of 1963 was to see the idea of Grat Britain commemorative stamps really take hold. However, in those days, those in control did not see the need for unified sets. So one finds two distinct approaches within the Lifeboat Conference set, albeit all three values were designed by Gentleman. He commented: ‘I could easily have redesigned one or two of the values to produce a set which was uniform in style’.

Those days were also to see some blurring of the edges. The rules didn’t allow a set to honour William Shakespeare, but there could be stamps to mark the Shakespeare Festival. Gentleman was working on these particular designs when he first met Tony Benn, the then Postmaster General (PMG).

Adventurous issues
Tony Benn wanted to be adventurous with the stamp issuing policy. Gentleman wrote to Benn with several ideas and as soon as the letter reached him, Benn responded eagerly. Gentleman suggested abandoning The Queen’s portrait, as this often caused design restrictions. In 1964 Benn, unbeknownst to the Royal Mail Advisory Panel, invited Gentleman to produce an album of design concepts. The ideas Gentleman produced included alternatives to the use of The Queen’s portrait, ingenious ways of linking stamps, particularly through the se-tenant arrangement, and a premature leaning towards ‘thematics’ with sets showing the Telford Bridge, rulers of Britain, butterflies and aircraft, and many others.

The album was published in the spring of 1966, albeit that Benn was quickly advised that any thought of dispensing with The Queen’s portrait should be abandoned immediately. Nevertheless, many of the ideas which Gentleman created with the album have gradually been implemented.

Perhaps the first was the innovation, for a British stamp issue, of a se-tenant arrangement. The block of six 4d stamps for the Battle of Britain worked well. He recalled: ‘This particular set was produced to a relatively short time scale, but my personal interest in aircraft meant it was a pleasure to undertake, and the results were particularly satisfying. The se-tenant approach was even more appropriate for the set to mark the Battle of Hastings, with designs based on the Bayeaux Tapestry’.

One of the techniques for which Gentleman has become noted is his use of effect of the overall sheet on a design. This was first seen within the Post Office Technology set in 1969, but was especially effective on the Social Reformers set. The 1980 Liverpool and Manchester Railway series proved ideal for linking one stamp with the next. The 1999 Millennium design and Millennium Timekeeper miniature sheet again demonstrate this ability for one stamp to blend with its neighbours on the sheet.

The thought process
When presented with a stamp commission, Gentleman explained: ‘I find ideas for the approach normally come first, though more detailed research may follow. I don’t really believe in flashes of inspiration, preferring to think my designs through’.

For the Millennium Timekeepers stamp, suggestions were made that he should look at the idea of clocks. He felt that showing an actual clock was too much like an illustration in a textbook, and instead developed a design that suggested the more elusive idea of ‘Time’. He said: ‘I don’t believe in revealing my design ideas too early – only when I have made up my own mind on the right approach will I show his ideas to others’.

But all has not always proceeded smoothly. He recalled one important subject, Ecology and the Environment, when: ‘I fell foul of a conflict between the Post Office and the government of the day. The designs dramatised sensitive subjects like power stations spewing out acid rain and the environmental effects of intensive farming. They were commissioned during the Thatcher era and although the Post Office liked them, Downing Street wanted them made more industry-friendly. At that point I resigned the commission – industry and ecology make poor bedfellows and there is no point in a designer trying to fudge such a head-on conflict’.

Source: Philatelynews

Published in Designers
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