Oct 132017

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


By Doug Briscoe

We’ve noted here any number of fiercely gifted people who’ve been gone a long time and yet have still not been honored on a stamp. Surely Art Tatum (October 13, 1909 – November 5, 1956) must be near the top of that lamentable list.

We have an even dozen birthday artists to acknowledge today, but we start with the 16th-century Italian sculptor and architect Francesco Camilliani, also known as Della Camilla, born in Florence in 1530, who died there on this date in 1576. His most celebrated work is the fountain in the Piazza Pretoria in Palermo, shown on an Italian stamp of 1975. This object has a somewhat peculiar history. It was commissioned by a Spanish nobleman, a cousin of Cosimo de’ Medici, for his property outside Florence. Camilliani completed the project in 1555 with the assistance of one Michelangelo Naccherino (1550-1622), but in 1573 the owner sold it to the Senate of Palermo. Disassembled into 644 pieces, it was shipped to that city and reconstructed by the artist’s son, himself a sculptor, Camillo Camilliani (died 1603). The undertaking was completed in 1584. For some time it was maligned as the Fontana della Vergogna, the “fountain of shame”, because of the nudity of the figures.

Scottish portrait-painter Allan Ramsay (13 October 1713 – 10 August 1784) has no stamp of his own, but his most famous portrait of George III shows up on a couple. Ramsay was born in Edinburgh to a poet of the same name. He studied in London from 1733 and moved on to Rome in 1736, then Naples, where he spent three years working with Francesco Solimena (whose birthday was just ten days ago). Returning home, Ramsay met with considerable success, leading ultimately to his being named Principal Painter in Ordinary to the king. This was in 1761, and shortly thereafter Ramsay made the aforementioned portrait of George III (c1762), bits of which decorated two stamps from Australia and Ascension Island. In 1770 Ramsay abandoned painting in favor of literature, leaving some fifty portraits to be completed by his assistant Philip Reinagle.

Today is also the birthday of the social butterfly and later actress Lillie Langtry (October 13, 1853 – February 12, 1929). She was born Emilie Charlotte Le Breton on the island of Jersey and married the widower Edward Langtry when she was 20, insisting that he take her off the island. In London, she became the center of attention for her beauty and wit, eventually becoming the mistress of the playboy Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, with whom her relationship lasted some four years, until 1880. Finding herself at loose ends, she was advised by her friend Oscar Wilde to try the stage. Some critics were not impressed, but the public loved her, both at home and throughout her 1882-83 tour of the United States. Langtry adopted American citizenship in 1897, divorcing her husband in that year and marrying a much younger man, an heir to a baronetcy, two years later. When the title descended to him in 1907, Langtry became Lady de Bathe. She appeared in her only film role in His Neighbor’s Wife in 1913. For the last years of her life she resided apart from her husband in Monaco. A very well done British television series, Lillie, was made in 1978 with Francesca Annis. The first stamp, from 1986, uses the portrait by Sir John Everett Millais, who was also from Jersey. It was from this painting that Langtry earned the sobriquet the “Jersey Lily”, Millais’ title for the picture. The envelope shows a full set of eight Lillie Langtry stamps issued just this year for the centenary of her retirement from the stage.


The Hungarian painter Oszkár Glatz (13 Cctober 1872 – 23 February 1958) was born and died in Budapest. He studied there as well as at Munich and Paris. He focused at first on landscapes, garnering praise with an exhibition in 1897. Later he turned to drawn portraits and paintings featuring people, often children, usually girls, in folk costume. I thought these were so pretty that I couldn’t resist linking to several of them: Brother and Sister, Young Couple (1935), Little Girl with Doll (1938), The Blue Bonnet (aka The Lesson, 1945), and Girl with a Rooster (1948). On the stamp, though, we see Wrestling Boys (1901), a picture he made at Hungary’s Lake Balaton.

The Lithuanian composer Mikas Petrauskas (1873 – 23 March 1937) may be of particular interest to my Bostonian neighbors. He was very active in the city, as well as in Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore. But to begin at the beginning: his introduction to music was with his father’s organ lessons. At the St. Petersburg Conservatory he studied with Liadov and Rimsky-Korsakov and around that time composed what are considered to be the first Lithuanian operettas. November 1906 saw the première of his opera Birutė in Vilnius. During his first visit to America, he established in Chicago the Lithuanian Conservatory, the first Lithuanian music school in the United States (1910), which was transferred to Boston in 1914. Starting in 1915 he made several recordings as a tenor for Columbia and RCA Victor. Besides Birutė, he wrote another Lithuanian national opera, Eglė žalčių karalienė (Queen of the Vipers), which was produced at Boston’s Grand Opera House. He also wrote two books and many articles on music. His brother Kipras Petrauskas was a famous tenor whose birthday we’ll acknowledge next month (11/23).

Croatian composer and academic Milo Cipra (1906 – 9 July 1985) was dean of the Zagreb Music Academy from 1961 to 1971. His earlier works were influenced by neoclassicism and elements of the folk music of his homeland, but in the late 1950s he began using a modified serialism. In his work The Path of the Sun (wind, pf, hp, perc, 1959), a composition in 12 movements named for the signs of the zodiac, his 12-note technique features pitches determined by symbolism and visual stimuli. Other works include two symphonies (1948, 1952), a Sinfonietta (1934), and five string quartets.


One of the best known of American editorial cartoonists was Herbert Lawrence Block (October 13, 1909 – October 7, 2001), who signed himself Herblock. He began college but was hired away by the Chicago Daily News and never went back to school. His first political cartoons appeared in 1929 with President Herbert Hoover as Herblock’s target. By 1942 he had won his first Pulitzer Prize. He went on to win two more, in 1954—after pillorying Joe McCarthy—and 1979, after Watergate. Again, Herbert Block has no stamp of his own, but he did design one in 1966 for the 175th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.

An iconic figure in Indian cinema, Ashok Kumar (13 October 1911 – 10 December 2001) was part of an extended family who worked in the film industry. He was born Kumudlal Ganguly and was introduced to film by his brother-in-law. In the 1930s he took on the screen name Ashok Kumar, but he was also familiarly known as Dadamoni (“elder brother”—he was the eldest sibling in his family). He played many kinds of roles, heroes and villains, and in later years character roles. His smash hit was 1943’s Kismet, directed by Gyan Mukherjee. Ashok Kumar was also a keen painter and a practitioner of homeopathy.

The short-lived Albanian poet Millosh Gjergj Nikolla (13 October 1911 – 26 August 1938) began contributing articles to periodicals in around 1933, using the pseudonym Migjeni, a conflation formed from the first syllables of each of his names. Although he produced prose pieces throughout the last five years of his life, he turned to poetry in 1935. He tried teaching in the countryside but had to give it up on account of his tuberculosis. He sought treatment in Turin but never fully recovered. His only volume of poetry, printed in Tirana in 1936, was never actually published following a ban by government censors. A second edition did come out in 1944, with two poems excised.


Another poet, one from halfway around the world, marks his centenary today. Salvadorian writer Hugo Lindo (October 13, 1917 – September 9, 1985) was first and foremost a diplomat and lawyer whose service took him to Korea (1947), Chile (1952-59), Colombia (1959-60), and Spain (1969-72). He was also Salvadorian Minister of Education in 1961. His first collection of poems appeared in 1943, followed by ten more and three posthumous volumes. One of his seven children, Ricardo Lindo Fuentes (1947-2016) was also a writer and poet.


The actor and singer Yves Montand (1921 – 9 November 1991) was born Ivo Livi. His family left fascist Italy for France in 1923, and the boy grew up in Marseille. He sang in music halls until discovered by Édith Piaf in Paris in 1944. After that Montand’s career blossomed as he branched out into film. He was married to Simone Signoret from 1951 until her death in 1985, apparently a happy marriage despite Montand’s numerous affairs, including one with Marilyn Monroe. He appears on more stamps than you might expect, one from France, one from Gibraltar (with a label citing the wonderful Jean de Florette, 1986), and minisheets from Guinea-Bissau and Togo.

The remarkably gifted and seemingly inexhaustible Robert Ingpen turns 81 today (born 13 October 1936). His talents have manifested themselves in the graphic arts, writing, and architecture (on a modest scale). The Australian artist has written or illustrated more than 100 books: notably children’s picture books, but a substantial number of nonfiction books on history, conservation, and health, as well as some adult fiction. In addition, he has produced public murals and statues in bronze and has designed and built a small number of residences. He illustrated centenary editions of J. M. Barrie‘s Peter Pan and Wendy and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and in 1978 he designed the flag and coat of arms for Australia’s Northern Territory. Of local note, his work was featured in the 2002 inaugural exhibition at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. Once again, as with Allan Ramsay and Herblock, Ingpen has not himself been honored with a stamp, but he designed quite a lot of them for Australia, of which I show a sampling that happens to be rather mammal-centric: horses, whales, sheep, and, for the 11th International Grassland Congress, a cow.


Austrian actress Christiane Hörbiger (born 13 October 1938) celebrates her 79th birthday today. She has been a mainstay of Austrian and German TV and film. If not so well known on these shores, she has attained a level of popularity sufficient to earn her an Austrian postage stamp from 2007.

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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