David Gentleman’s Kew Gardens stamps

On Tuesday Royal Mail released a third set of stamps in the Action for Species series, on Endangered Plants, as well as a miniature sheet commemorating the 250th Anniversary of Kew Gardens (both of which can be seen here). However, this is not the first time Kew Gardens has appeared on stamps.

A commemorative set released in 1990 marked the 150th anniversary of Kew Gardens being adopted as a national botanical garden. The stamps were designed by Paul Leith and showed four pairs of notable trees and buildings in the gardens.

Paul Leiths Kew Gardens stamps (1990)

Paul Leith’s Kew Gardens stamps (1990)

The BPMA holds Leith’s original artwork for these stamps as well as a number of unadopted designs by Leith and the other artists who were invited to submit ideas for the set: Jane Human, Siobhan Russell, graphic designer company Silk Pearce and David Gentleman. A retrospective exhibition of stamp design work by David Gentleman is currently on display at the BPMA and includes a number of unadopted designs, but none are from the 1990 Kew Gardens set.

David Gentleman submitted 5 sets of designs and four alternative designs for the Kew Gardens set. Below is a list of these designs accompanied by the artist’s descriptions, and some (low quality) scans of selected artworks.

Set A
4 watercolour paintings, dated 01/11/88
A1 – Spring: Sophora japonica (Pagoda tree) planted 1760.
A2 – Summer: Robinia pseud acacia (false acacia), planted 1762.
A3 – Autumn: Platanus orientalis (Oriental plane), planted c.1762.
A4 – Winter: Quercus hispanica lucombeaua (Lucombe’s oak), planted 1760.

A2 - David Gentlemans unadopted False Acacia design

A2 – David Gentleman’s unadopted False Acacia design

Set B
4 watercolour paintings, dated 01/11/88
B1 – Encephelartos longifolia; the oldest glasshouse plant in Kew; with the Palm House to which it will shortly return.
B2 – The Pagoda Tree (sophora japonica), part of the original planting of c.1760 with the Orangery, designed by Sir William Chambers and built in 1761.
B3 – Platanus orientalis (Oriental plane) – original planting of c.1762; with Kew Palace.
B4 – Robina pseudacacia or false acacia, (original planting, c.1762) with the Aroid House, by John Nash; moved to Kew from Buckingham Palace, 1836.

B1 - David Gentlemans unadopted Encephelartos longifolia design

B1 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Encephelartos longifolia design

Set C
4 watercolour paintings, dated 01/11/88
C1 – Encephelartos longifolia; the oldest glasshouse plant in Kew; with the Palm House to which it will shortly return.
C2 – Platanus orientalis (Oriental plane) – original planting of c.1762; with Kew Palace.
C3 – Quercus Lucombeaua (Lucombe’s oak), original planting of the 1760s; with the Avoid House.
C4 – Robina pseudacacia; original planting of c1762; with Orangery, designed by Sir William Chambers and built in 1761.

C2 - David Gentlemans unadopted Oriental Plane design

C2 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Oriental Plane design

Alternates:
C1 (ii) – Encephelartos longifolia; the oldest glasshouse plant in Kew; with the Palm House to which it will shortly return.
C1 (iii) – Encephelartos longifolia; the oldest glasshouse plant in Kew; with the Palm House to which it will shortly return.

C1 (ii) - David Gentlemans unadopted Encephelartos longifolia design (alternate)

C1 (ii) – David Gentleman’s unadopted Encephelartos longifolia design (alternate)

Set D
3 watercolour paintings (D1-3) and 1 illustration (D4), dated 15/03/89
D1 – Spring: Robinia pseudacacia (false acacia). Planted in 1762 as part of the original planting.
D2 – Summer: Quercus hisparica lucombeaua (Oriental Plane). Part of the original 1760s planting. (sic)
D3: Autumn: Plantanus orientalis (Oriental Plane). Part of the original 1760s planting.
D4: Winter: Sophora japonica (Pagoda Tree). Planted c1760 as part of the original planting.

D4 - David Gentlemans unadopted Pagoda Tree design

D4 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Pagoda Tree design

Set E
4 illustrations, dated 15/03/89
E1 – Spring: Robina pseudacacia (false acacia). Planted in 1762, as part of the original planting. In the background, the Orangery, designed by Sir William Chambers and built in 1761.
E2 – Summer: Quercus hispanica lucombeaua (Lucombe’s oak). Part of the original planting of in 1760s. In the distance, the Pagoda. (sic)
E3 – Autumn: Plantanus orientalis (Oriental plane). Part of the original 1760s planting. In the background, the Temperate House.
E4 – Winter: Sophora japonica (Pagoda Tree). Planted c1760 as part of the original planting. The Palm House.

E4 - David Gentlemans unadopted Pagoda Tree design (winter)

E4 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Pagoda Tree design (winter)

Additional designs
There is no artist’s description for these designs; they are described on the reverse as presentation visuals.
1 – Oak Tree (green illustration).
2 – Oak Tree (computer image).

Additional design 2 - David Gentlemans unadopted Oak Tree design

Additional design 2 – David Gentleman’s unadopted Oak Tree design

For more previously unseen stamp artwork by David Gentleman, please see our online exhibition Gentleman on Stamps. Some of the heritage trees which appeared in Gentleman’s designs can be seen on the Kew Gardens website; False Acacia, Lucombe Oak, Oriental Pane, Pagoda Tree.

3 responses to “David Gentleman’s Kew Gardens stamps

  1. Excellent post and addition to the David Gentleman online exhibition. I don’t care for the 1990 Kew Gardens stamps shown. They are uninspiring and don’t convey the beauty of the plants. I think Gentleman’s designs are better, especially the Pagoda Tree (although I’m not sure about that goose in the foreground – it looks too large compared to the tree).

  2. Paul Leith’s designs are brilliant. They appeal to very wide audience. I appreciate David Gentleman’s designs but Leith adds an extra dimension of sparkle by departing from a literal interpretation of the brief.

  3. To the correct, then to the left; up and down; and all points in
    in between.

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