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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stamp Art

Niagara, 1857, Edwin Church
For several years there has been on the art market a great bargain in print reproductions. Can you imagine, buying frameable reproductions of some of the greatest masterpieces in American art history for less than fifty cents each? These high-quality, prints of famous paintings won't cost an arm and a leg to mat and frame either. I guess I should mention at this point, if the price hasn't already tipped you off, they're postage stamps. Galleries as reputable as the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, which owns two original oil paintings used on such mini-reproductions, sell them. The Corcoran purchased these two paintings over a century ago from the artists themselves in an attempt to "...encourage American genius in the arts." Such postage stamps have long had a similar purpose.

The Last of the Buffalo, 1889,
Albert Bierstadt
One of the Corcoran's postal prints dating from 1998, was Frederic Edwin Church's Niagara (above) painted in 1857, while the other was by Albert Bierstadt, The Last of the Buffalo (right, 1889). Both are about as "American" as American art gets. Over the years, there have been dozens of other outstanding examples of American painting spanning some four hundred years of "American genius in the arts". The earliest in the series is by John Foster, painted in 1670, entitled Portrait of Richard Mather. A more recent one was by Mark Rothko, with the heart-stopping, spellbinding title, No. 12. Among other works are those instantly recognizable as Grant Wood's American Gothic and as obscure as John James Audubon's Long-billed Curlew, Numenius Longrostris (bottom).

Girl in a Red Dress with Cat and Dog,
1830s, Ammi Phillips
Several women artists are recognized, Ammi Phillips' Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog (left, painted in the 1830s), and Mary Cassatt's Breakfast in Bed, painted in 1897. There is also a work by an anonymous American painter, a limner painting of Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary painted around 1673. Also included are works by George Caleb Bingham, Winslow Homer, Asher B. Durand, George Catlin, Thomas B. Moran, Franz Kline, Edward Hopper, William Harnett and Rembrandt Peale. Never before have American art prints been available at such a low price. They're just the thing for over the couch in the living room of your child's doll house. Such art is regularly available from the U.S. Postal Service at your friendly, neighborhood, post office/art gallery, but don't bother asking to see their selection of frames.
Long-billed Curlew, Numenius Longrostris, 1834, John James Audubon

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