The artist Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) at one time actually worked nights sorting mail at the USPS. He filled notebooks with sketches of envelope shapes and folds, which served as ‘ready-made’ sources for his abstract compositions seen here.
The fate of the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been under threat for many years, facing budgetary shortfalls and slowdowns in delivery times. The state of the service was emphasised at the recent US election, where a much higher percentage of citizens voted by mail than usual. During the election process the USPS became a topic of heated discussion and debate.
The USPS relies heavily on revenue from mail and packages, as it has not received taxpayer funding since 1982. But the volume of mail has dropped by 30 per cent. since 2006, according to America’s NBC News.
In 2017 Patrick Mendonca, then a senior director of the USPS, said in a statement: “The Postal Service takes tremendous pride in its stamp program, which celebrates the very best of American life, history, and culture”. That has been good news for art lovers over the years. For decades, the USPS has selected individual works of art to adorn some of its most memorable stamps, as seen here.
The Postal Service captured the classic beauty of still-life paintings with the release of stamps featuring 10 different images of fruits and vegetables. Each stamp features a different arrangement: red and black plums, heirloom and cherry tomatoes, carrots, lemons, blueberries, red and green grapes, lettuces, strawberries, eggplants, and figs. Inspired by the artistic traditions of Renaissance Europe, artist Robert Papp used real fruits and vegetables as models. After sketching his subjects, he transferred the drawings to canvas mounted on hardboard and created 10 stunning oil images of fruits and vegetables.
The American artist Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), sculpted these intricate, looped-wire artworks. Her works are prized by museums, art collectors, and design aficionados alike.
Alexander Calder (1898–1976) was known for his ‘mobile-stabile’ works of art. USPS commemorated the artist’s work in 1998 with the series of five stamps seen above, including the middle stamp ‘Rearing Stallion’, and to its right ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’.
The Andy Warhol stamp from 2002 features Andy Warhol’s 1964 self-portrait. Based on a photo-booth photograph, the image of silkscreen ink and synthetic polymer paint on canvas is one of several versions in varying colours. The work is now in the collection of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was the first Hispanic woman to be honoured with a U.S. postage stamp. It created quite a stir in the U.S., mainly because of her lifestyle and membership in the Mexican Communist Party. She is probably best-known for her striking self-portraits.
The beautiful minisheet entitled ‘Four Centuries of American Art’ was issued in 1998 and included many iconic images such as Edward Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks, Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic, Mary Cassatt’s ‘Breakfast in Bed’, Mark Rothko’s ‘No. 12’ and Thomas Moran’s ‘Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone’.
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