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Apr 112017
 

An Arts Fuse regular feature: the arts on stamps of the world.

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By Doug Briscoe

For the second day in a row we have only four subjects on The Arts on Stamps of the World.

Last year was the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera (April 11, 1916 – June 25, 1983). Wikipedia tells us: “During the last few years of his life, he preferred to pronounce his surname in its Catalan pronunciation, with a soft ‘G’ as in ‘George’ rather than a Spanish ‘J’ sound.” Although born in Buenos Aires, his parents were Catalan and Italian. He studied at the conservatory there and with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. In 1947 he returned to Buenos Aires, co-founded the League of Composers, and took up teaching, his most famous student being Ástor Piazzolla. He relocated to the US in 1968 and to Europe in 1970, dying in Geneva in 1983. His best known works, I suppose, are his two ballets Panambí and Estancia. The stamp derives from the same 1997 set as the one honoring Piazzolla, which we saw on March 11.

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Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland (11 April 1869 – 12 March 1943) was the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal, but his legacy is much more extensive than that. His father was a cabinetmaker, and Gustav’s first training was in woodworking. Before he was twenty he had determined to become a sculptor. Soon after, he adopted the name Vigeland (originally it was Thorsen) from the region where he was born. Years of travel to the European capitals were followed by two successful shows in Norway, and by 1905 Vigeland’s talents were much in demand. In 1921 the city of Oslo, in return for the rights to all his later work, built him a new home and studio in Frogner Park that came to be known as the Vigeland installation. Vigeland specialized in sturdy nudes, often overtly erotic, but also representations of loving family groups, as exemplified in the centennial stamps from 1969, which show details from his Mother and Child (1909) and Man, Woman and Child (1917). On the US stamp from 2001, Vigeland’s Peace Medal is the one at left (the design in the foreground, not by Vigeland, is the one for the science and literature medals).

The short-lived Hungarian poet Attila József (11 April 1905 – 3 December 1937) grew up in wretched poverty after his father abandoned the family when József was three. After his mother died when he was fourteen, he was cared for by a brother-in-law who could afford to pay for his schooling. József had his first volume of poetry published when he was seventeen. Unfortunately he suffered from a mental aberration (probably borderline personality disorder). His death under the wheels of a train is generally thought to have been a suicide. Although József is likely the best known of 20th-century Hungarian poets internationally, I could find musical settings of his verse only by his countrymen Ligeti (just one song) and Kurtág.

Scottish/Canadian filmmaker and animator Norman McLaren (11 April 1914 – 27 January 1987) is honored on two postage stamps, one from Great Britain recalling his 1938 documentary Love on the Wing, which was made for the UK General Post Office film unit, and a Canadian one for Neighbours (1952), the first of McLaren’s four Oscar-winning documentary shorts. Among his numerous other awards was the Short Film Palme d’Or at Cannes for the abstract animation of Blinkity Blank (1955). The National Film Board of Canada named its Montreal head office the Norman McLaren Building, though later this year the Board is scheduled to relocate to new offices.

The English poet Christopher Smart (11 April 1722 – 21 May 1771), it seems to me, is deserving of a stamp.


A graduate of the University of Massachusetts with a B.A. in English, Doug Briscoe worked in Boston classical music radio, at WCRB, WGBH, and WBUR, for about 25 years, beginning in 1977. He has the curious distinction of having succeeded Robert J. Lurtsema twice, first as host of WGBH’s weekday morning classical music program in 1993, then as host of the weekend program when Robert J.’s health failed in 2000. Doug also wrote liner notes for several of the late Gunther Schuller’s GM Recordings releases as well as program notes for the Boston Classical Orchestra. For the past few years he’s been posting a Facebook “blog” of classical music on stamps of the world, which has now been expanded to encompass all the arts for The Arts Fuse.

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