Sunday, 20 July 2014

Painting the World

2002: Birth Centenary Albert Namatjira
The 1920s were a period of severe drought in central Australia and to raise money to help the local population the area mission established a craft industry where aborigines made boomerangs with burnt pokerwork designs and wooden plaques decorated with plants, animals and the landscape of Central Australia.  Albert Namatjira was one of these and would received his first commission at this time which was for five wooden plaques.  He continued to work in these mediums but the need to earn money to support his family meant that he also worked on cattle stations.  In the winter of 1934 the watercolourist Rex Batterbee and fellow artist John Gardner put on an exhibition of their paintings of the MacDonnell Ranges at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission where Albert Namatjira saw and studied them, showing such interest that the Pastor at the mission gave him a set of watercolour paints.  In the winter of 1936 Batterbee returned to the area and Namatjira acted as his guide to the scenic areas of the tribal lands of Western Aranda offering his services as "camel boy in return for painting lessons".  Batterbee was amazed at his rapid progress and understanding of a medium that would take some people many years to learn.
He would go on to produce about 2000 paintings which he would always paint plein air on his many walkabouts with his family but only in the winter or dry season due to the famously severe Australian sun in the summer.  The ochre tones not only represent the landscape in western artist style but also are influenced by Aboriginal tradition. These were not easy times for the indigenous population as the aboriginal people lived under restrictive legislation that made them wards of state and were not given Australian citizenship until 1968 (Namatjira died in 1959) but Namatjira would become the first named Australian aborigine to have his portrait appear on a postage stamp.  The Hermannsburg School of Artists website shows how Albert was the first of many indigenous artists who would portray their love of the landscape in this way here.

Someone else who was always travelling (but in Europe) and painted landscape watercolours was Edward Lear but he is probably better know for his illustrations and verse
1988: Death Centenary of Edward Lear
The 20th of a family of 21 children and rejected by this mother he was brought up by his sister Ann. Due to illness he did not go to school and started to earn his living as a painter in the yards of coaching inns. By the time he was 16 he was working as an ornithological draughtsman and it was while working at the Zoological Gardens in London that he was introduced to the Earl of Derby who at the time was looking for an artist to make drawings of his extensive menagerie at his family home. It was during his six years at Knowsley that he wrote the first of his limericks which were for the children of the household and illustrated with the birds and animals he knew so well. The damp climate of north west England made his asthma and bronchitis worse so with Lord Derby's help he went to live in Rome and would spend most of the rest of his life abroad traveling, painting and drawing.  Lear depended upon letters to keep him in touch with family and friends and the 27p stamp above shows one of his signatures portraying himself as a bird.  The 32p stamp below is from an alphabet book. For a small taste of his whimsy and other works see this blog post here
An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - Artists and Illustrators here

Sunday, 13 July 2014


2010: Shangrila
When the China Daily newspaper published its list of "Top 10 Fairylands in Yunnan Province" saying that Yunnan has some of the most magical and diverse scenery in all of China, the Meri Snow Mountains came in at Number 8.   The view shown on the Commemorative Sheet is possibly the most famous with the peaks bathed in the golden light of sunrise. Also known as the Prince of Snow Mountain or the 13 Prince Peaks by the locals, these are the highest (over 6,000 metres) of the mountains in the range. Lying on the boundary between Yunnan and Tibet they are also a place of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists. The China Daily describes the area thus
"The crystal glacier extreme from the peak all the way to the forest area an altitude of 2700 metres which forms the most spectacular low latitude monsoonal oceanic glacier in the world. A streak of scarlet light pierced the dark clouds, revealing over 50 steep snowcapped summits, shining, dazzling and thrusting into the clouds like golden swords"
2004: "Frontier Scenes of China"

   Covering a land area of 9.6 million square kilometre stretching from the Pamirs in Central Asia to the western part of the Pacific, temperate zones and tropical, what a diversity of scenery is China. This sheet's theme is areas on the frontiers of China but slap bang in the middle is The Gate of Heavenly Peace, the south entrance to the Forbidden City which although tourists throng the area today in past times it was indeed a forbidden frontier for the majority of the population.  The stamps show (and the Chinese always helpfully number their stamps), going clockwise from the top right
12.1 - Forest of Xing'an Mountain
12.2 - Lake in the Yalu River Basin
12.3 - Reefs in the Yellow Sea
12.4 - Zhoushan Archipelago
12.5 - The coastline of Taiwan
12.6 - Xisha Islands
12.7 - Karst Landscape in Southern Yunnan
12.8 - Rain Forest in Southern Yunnan
12.9 - Mount Qomolangma
12.10 - The Pamirs
12.11 - The Badain Jaran Desert
12.12 - Hulun Buir Steppe

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - "Beautiful Landscapes" here

Friday, 11 July 2014

Eco Museum

I love an old fashioned (in the best possible way) museum that is just full of 'stuff' and the Ecomusee de Lizio in Brittany fits the bill perfectly. The founder, Alain Guillard, saw old objects and tools disappearing and being lost forever and started to collect and restore them; this treasure trove of 100,000 tools and objects is the result. Breton house interiors, workshops and schools are lovingly displayed, this postcard shows a selection on the theme of transport. Bottom right are toys of the Tour de France being held up at a railway crossing whereas the old Citroen, top left, I always think of as the 'Maigret' car.  Looks like we are all off on holiday, top right, and hopefully will not need the services of the breakdown truck (bottom left).

A short Q and A with Alain Guillard and directions to the Eco-museum of old trades and occupations here     

Friday, 4 July 2014


Heading to Yorkshire to see the Tour de France so what is more appropriate than a picture of a postie on his steed spotted last time I was in York in 2013, coincidently also in the month of July.  By chance I also discovered on last year's trip the York Central Delivery Office which is on Leeman Road down by the side of the River Ouse and took photographs of the extensive bike stores but alas the sun's direction and the security railings conspired against me as can be seen

Sunday, 29 June 2014

DIg It

1970: Archaeological Discoveries
The Halle State Museum houses the most important archaeology collection in Germany and this wonderfully preserved Germanic helmet from about AD500 is on display there.
Definitive 1960s "Queen Nefertari
Ones thoughts are drawn to Egypt when thinking of archeology and this stamp shows Queen Nefertari, one of the wives of Ramesses the Great, whose tomb is described as the most spectacular in the Valley of the Queens.
Princess of Tell-el-Amarna (about 1360BC)
In 1912 a dig located in the northern group of tombs near Cairo found a workshop and living quarters of a sculptor and his staff from the reign of Akhenaten and I think the stamp above shows one of the heads.  This is from a set of East German stamps called "Antique Art Treasures" issued in 1959 which also included
an Attic goddess from Greece (about 580 BC)
and the oldest artefact I show here on stamps which is the bronze horse of Toprak-kale, Armenia (present day Turkey) from the 7th Century BC.  These treasures are now in museums but I think that
many more treasures would be transported in the past along the road which starts from Chong'an (now Xi'an) and Luoyang, once capital cities of the Han (206BC-25AD) and Tang (618-907) which extends westwards to Europe and southwards to India from China.  This is "The Silk Road" set of of stamps China issued in 2012, no mention is made what the artefacts are but China Post have given the stamps suitably romantic titles Left to Right:
"Millennia old capital"; "The Magnificent Pass in the Desert"; "A Mysterious Kingdom" and lastly
"Extraordinary Scenery of the Western Region"

I do not have the miniature sheet which completes the set which is called "Exchange" but I imagine money was lost on this road and it seems to be a universal occurrence that it is coins which are things most likely to be found in the ground centuries later
1988: Ancient Chinese Coins (2nd Series)
It looks as though the  Chinese experimented with many different shapes of coins. I suspect their clothing did not have pockets for they all have holes which could perhaps be secured with cord.  The ones on the left and right are called shovel coins, the one in the middle has the descriptive title of  Monster Masque
Han Dan Shovel Coin and Pointed Head Knife Coin

 Ming Knife Coin, Jin Hua Knife Coin and lastly the Yi Liu Hua circular coin which is possibly the most familiar shape of old Chinese coins.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamp theme of Archaeology or Anthropology here

Sunday, 22 June 2014

On Tour

This year's Tour de France Grand Depart in July  is from the north of England which will be just a short trip over the Pennines for me and I'm overexcited about that fact so I've chosen a cycling theme for Sunday Stamps. The above cover uses one of the 1978 Cycling stamps which featured what was then called The Milk Race, a road race named after the sponsors, the Milk Marketing Board.  The cover itself  is a commemoration of the World Cycling Championships which in 1982 were split between Goodwood and Leicester. (The distinctive striped jersey on the stamp is that of World Champion which will be worn for the year of racing by the winner of that accolade).  Leicester twice hosted the UCI World Championships in 1970 and 1982; both bikes and clothing have altered radically since then.
2012: Olympic Gold Medals
Here is Bradley Wiggins winning Olympic gold in the Men's Time Trial. Royal Mail issued stamps for all the gold medallists in super quick time reaching 500 key post offices by lunch time the day after the gold medal win, at least one of those post offices would be a branch in the winners home town. The year of 2012 was an amazing year for Wiggins as he also won the Tour de France
and the Isle of Man included him on their set celebrating the 100th edition of the race in 2013 ( bottom right).

The eight stamp images portray the great champions, starting on the top row with
  • 1p Eugène Christophe,, the first rider to wear the now famous Maillot Jaune of the race leader although he complained that the spectators called him a yellow canary.  Riding 11 tours he never won `overal victory but his career was full of incident such as the time he had to weld together his bike during the race. During World War 1 he was part of the French Cycling Battalion and was a pioneer of cyclo-cross. 
  • 40p The Manx Missile himself, Mark Cavendish wearing the green points jersey in the 2011 Tour.  He is the most successful sprinter in Tour de France history and has won many stages often propelled by his pedalling team mates when he he then takes off at high speed to the finishing line.
  • 42p Brian Robinson, the first Briton to win a stage and pictured in the 1960 Tour. It is also significant because he is from Yorkshire where this year's Tour will start and is their cycling ambassador.
  • 60p Spain's Miguel Indurain who won from 1991 to 1995 (the stamp shows the 1992 Tour)
 Bottom Row L to R
  • 73p Jacques Anquetil, won in 1957 and then four in a row 1961 to 1964. The stamp shows him in 1963.
  • 108p Eddy Merckx, "The Cannibal' considered the greatest racing cyclist ever won on his Tour début in 1969 and would win five titles, the stamps shows him racing in the 1970 Tour.
  • 110p Bernard Hinault also won five times, injury preventing him from competing in some years, the stamp shows him in 1979.
  • 120p Bradley Wiggins, first British Tour de France winner in 2012.

For more than 50 years the Isle of Man has held the International Cycling Festival which has attracted many Tour de France riders to the island, and some of those featured on the stamps.  Its love affair with cycling continues for they are going to issue stamps and postcards for the Tour this year calling it "The Road to Paris". The ultimate destination being the iconic finishing point of the Champs-Élysées circuit when no doubt every Manx person will be urging Mark Cavendish to speed to the finish line and win the stage as he did his in his record breaking four years in a row (2009-2012).

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps here

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Send in the Clowns

Here comes a 'helpful' clown to assist with the caravan wheel. Although not a great lover of the circus I do like the bit when the clowns come on in a car that keeps breaking down so I imagine this clown has great experience in mending motorised transport.
2013: Road Trip
Unusually the stamp shows more details than the postcard and expands the view outwards.  I like the joke pointing finger on the right and of course the little koala bear looking out of the window at the back. The first series of Australia Post's "Road Trip" in 2012 proved popular and they issued another set in 2013 but this time featuring urban centres of Australia. As can be seen by the banner this is Adelaide, sometimes called the City of Churches and Festivals so the artist, Gavin Ryan, has included both in his amusing view.  The four day WOMAD (World Music, Art and Dance) appears ever year in Adelaide.  For more of Gavin Ryan's art work of fantasy and humour see here.
1994: The Circus
With this stamp we have arrived at the circus and are inside the Big Top with a clown balancing dogs on a tightrope drawn by the graphic designer and illustrator Parvan Ioana
1989: 70th Anniversary of the Soviet Circus

Lastly, a clown with a name, Karandash, which means 'pencil'.  His real name was Mikhail Nikolayevich Rumyantsev (1901-1983) and was a hugely popular performer for 55 years, still working right up to the end of his life.  Karandash started off as an imitator of Charlie Chaplin but soon developed his own act with the same sort of hapless accidents but with satire and also his character tended to outwit his opponents.  The stamp shows him in his stage dress with a donkey and his Scottish Terrier, Klyaksa which means 'ink spot' or 'blot'. When he toured he learnt about the city he was visiting beforehand and fitted in references to parts of it into his act.  The appearance on the stamp for the Soviet Circus Anniversary is not only because of his popularity but also because he was also a teacher of clowns  (one of his students was Oleg Popov) and the Moscow Circus School is named after him.

An entry to Viridian Postcard's Sunday Stamps theme of - Circuses here.