Artwork and other material related to King George V definitive stamps has now been made available on our website. During George V’s 26 year reign (1910-1936) only three definitive designs were issued – the Downey Head, the Mackennal (or Profile) Head and the Seahorse High Values. Our webpages include material related to these three issues, with separate webpages devoted to the First Designs (1910) and the Photogravure designs (1933-36).
Barnett Freedman’s design for a proposed photogravure 7d or 8d value, November 1935. (GV-13-24)
For those with a special interest in stamps from the George V era there are links from these webpages to further material on our online catalogue.
Visit www.postalheritage.org.uk/kgv-definitives to see the new webpages.
Posted in Archive, Catalogue, Collection, Philatelic
Tagged Barnett Freedman, Bertram Mackennal, definitive stamps, Downey head, George V, high value definitives, King George V, philately, photogravure, profile head, Royal Mail Archive, seahorses, stamp design, stamp designs, stamps
New to our podcast is a recent talk given by our Curator of Philately Douglas Muir, on the stamps, medals and coins of Bertram Mackennal.
Bertram Mackennal was an Australian sculptor who, amongst other things, worked on all definitive stamps issued during the reign of King George V. Douglas Muir’s talk gives an in-depth insight into the design and production process for these issues, and also looks at Mackennal’s work on coins and medals.
The podcast is free to download from www.postalheritage.org.uk/podcast or iTunes
Douglas Muir’s book George V and the GPO: Stamps, Conflict and Creativity, can be purchased from our online shop.
As part of our continuing series of events on themes related to George V, the BPMA’s Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will give a free talk next month on the work of Bertram Mackennal. Mackennal was a noted sculptor who designed coins, stamps and medals during the reign of George V. Douglas Muir’s talk will include images from the Royal Philatelic Collection and the Royal Mint as well as the BPMA, together with examples of Mackennal’s work in sculpture.
The unpopular “Downey Head” (left), the frame of which was designed by Bertram Mackennal and G.W. Eve. George V disliked the three-quarter profile and the replacement “Profile Head” (right) was issued the following year. The “Profile Head” effigy of George V was designed by Mackennal and the frame by Eve.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1863, Edgar Bertram Mackennal received his early training in sculpture from his Scottish immigrant father John Simpson Mackennal and at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School. At age 19 Mackennal left for Europe, where he undertook further study in London and Paris and began to be commissioned to produce reliefs, figures and busts.
Having completed a number of significant works in England, Australia and India, including statues of monarchs and other notable persons, Mackennal was commissioned to design the medals for the 1908 London Olympic Games. Two years later, when George V ascended the throne, Mackennal was commissioned to prepare an effigy of the King for coins and medals. The Post Office was also keen to employ Mackennal to work on the new definitive stamps, and although initially reluctant, Mackennal agreed.
The popular Seahorses design depicts Britannia being driven through the sea on a chariot pulled by three horses. In her hands are a trident and a shield bearing the Union Jack. Mackennal took inspiration from Greek and Roman depictions of chariot races for this design.
Mackennal was involved in the design of all definitive stamp issues during the reign of George V, including the much-loved Seahorses design. Originally issued by the Post Office on 30th June 1913 this design was seen as revolutionary for its time, being the first British stamp to bear a pictorial illustration alongside the monarch’s head and the value. In many ways it can be said to be the pre-cursor to the first British commemorative stamp, issued to celebrate the opening of the British Empire Exhibition 11 years later.
Douglas Muir’s talk on Bertram Mackennal will take place on Thursday 7 October at the BPMA. Information on how to book can be found on our website. Tickets are free.
Douglas Muir’s book George V and the GPO: Stamps, Conflict & Creativity is available from the BPMA online shop.
Posted in Events, London 2010, Philatelic
Tagged Bertram Mackennal, British Empire Exhibition, coins, commemorative stamps, definitive stamps, Douglas Muir, Downey head, George V, London Olympics, medals, National Gallery of Victoria Art School, profile head, Royal Philatelic Collection, sculpture, seahorses, stamp design, stamps
A fifth postcard is now available in the popular series promoting the London 2010: Festival of Stamps. This postcard looks at the stamps produced for the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.
The postcard features a photographic portrait of George V by Vandyk, alongside essays from 1934 that used this image at two different sizes. It also features an essay with an alternative portrait by Bertram Mackennal, which was much preferred by George V. It was this design that was eventually chosen by the King for the issued stamp.
The fifth London 2010: Festival of Stamps postcard, featuring stamps produced for the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.
The stamp was designed by Barnett Freedman, the 33-year old son of Jewish-Russian political refugees. He had grown up in the East End of London, starting work at the age of 15 as a draughtsman to a monumental mason. He studied art at night school and in 1922 won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. As well as the stamps, he produced several posters and other illustrations for the GPO.
Freedman wrote of his design for the Silver Jubilee stamps;
The fundamental idea in designing the Silver Jubilee Commemoration Postage Stamp, was firstly, to obtain an effect of dignity and simplicity:- that the design and the lettering should be clear and legible, so as to give at once the function of the new issue, and that the complete stamp should be essentially classical in character.
Secondly, I have used only the very simplest forms of symbolism, the main themes being the Laurel Leaves and the Olive Branches, the Laurel for Triumph and Reward, and the Olive branch for Peace and Goodwill.
The Royal Crown is depicted in each of the four denominations but the Laurel and Olive branches have been interchanged in various forms, with the addition of the Oakleaf and acorn (symbolical of strength and stability) so that with the difference of each denomination-colour, there is also a subtle change of design, without alteration to the fundamental character of the stamp.
Many of the rejected designs by other artists for a George V Silver Jubilee stamp can be seen on our online catalogue.
The new postcard will be sent out this week free with the BPMA Newsletter to subscribers. It can also be obtained from the BPMA Search Room (Freeling House) and will be available at Autumn Stampex (15-18 September) from the Friends of the BPMA stand.
Limited edition complete sets of London 2010 postcards will be available for purchase later in the year.
BPMA Curator of Philately Douglas Muir will be speaking on the stamp, medal and coinage designs of Bertram Mackennal at the BPMA on 7 October 2010. See our website for details.
Posted in London 2010, Philatelic
Tagged Autumn Stampex, Barnett Freedman, Bertram Mackennal, George V, London 2010: Festival of Stamps, philately, postcards, Silver Jubilee, stamps, Vandyk
by Stuart Aitken, Collections Assistant
The entire collection of King George V registration sheets is now fully accessible on our online catalogue. Registration sheets, often imperforate, exist as the very first prints taken from the printing plate for each stamp in sheet form. The collection consists of 1,027 sheets in total.
The reign of King George V (6th May 1910 – 20th January 1936) marked one of the most fascinating eras of British postage stamps; a period of change, progression and vast improvements with stamp production. The King himself was a proud philatelist so it is no great surprise that such diversity and experimentation occurred during this time.
2½d Downey Head 1911
The first King George V stamps, the ½d and 1d Downey Head, released on the 22nd June 1911 to coincide with the King’s coronation, immediately faced a storm of criticism as it was the first time a three-quarter profile of the monarch had been used (up to this stage all Great Britain issues had previously used a side-on profile). It was also argued that the use of a typographed image from a photograph had not been hugely successful. Consequently the Downey Head was replaced in August 1912 by the designs of Bertram Mackennal, which saw a return to the profile head. Since the Downey issues, all Great Britain stamps have used a profile head design.
½d Photogravure 1935
In 1934 a new design for definitive issues was introduced which was printed using the Photogravure process. Utilising high-speed production and at a lower cost, these stamps underwent subtle resizing and modifications over the years to allow improvements. Information such as this can be found in the description field of each catalogue entry, along with a scanned section of each sheet.
1d British Empire Exhibition 1924
The first British commemorative stamps were also issued during the reign of King George V to mark the 1924/25 Empire Exhibition at Wembley, featuring a Lion in a striking stance. Following this issue other commemorative issues were subsequently produced to mark the 1929 London Postal Union Congress and the 1935 Silver Jubilee of the King.
Also included in the collection are registration sheets of the high value Seahorse issues, the first ever postage due stamps, colour trials, black proof sheets and official governmental overprints relating to their official use in various British territories outside the UK.
Each catalogue entry in the collection is detailed, comprehensible and provides a great research tool and insight into this unique collection of British registration sheets.
Posted in Catalogue, Collection, Philatelic
Tagged Bertram Mackennal, British Empire Exhibition, Downey head, George V, online catalogue, philately, photogravure, postage stamps, Postal Union Congress, profile head, registration sheets, seahorses, Silver Jubilee, stamps
The Philatelic Congress of Great Britain, one of the highlights of the British philatelic calendar, takes place in Kenilworth next week. Amongst the special guest speakers is our Curator of Philately Douglas Muir who will speak on the work of Bertram Mackennal, designer of stamps, coins and medals during the reign of King George V.
Bertram Mackennal’s “Seahorses” stamp design, issued 1913
Bertram Mackennal’s most admired stamp design was for the “Seahorses” High Values, originally issued by the Post Office on 30th June 1913. This design was seen as revolutionary for its time, being the first British stamp to bear a pictorial illustration alongside the monarch’s head and the value. In many ways it can be said to be the pre-cursor to the first British commemorative stamp, issued to celebrate the opening of the British Empire Exhibition 11 years later.
Other speakers at this year’s Congress of Great Britain will also cover stamps and postal history from the era of George V. In addition there will be a number of static displays, society meetings and social events taking place throughout the three-day event.
The full programme of events and booking details for the Philatelic Congress of Great Britain can be found on the Association of British Philatelic Societies website.
Posted in Events, London 2010, Philatelic
Tagged Bertram Mackennal, British Empire Exhibition, commemorative stamps, George V, London 2010: Festival of Stamps, Philatelic Congress of Great Britain, philately, seahorses, stamp collecting
Eric Gill’s un-adopted design for the British Empire Exhibition stamp of 1924
In May, stamp designer Brian Webb and independent fine art consultant Peyton Skipwith spoke at the BPMA about the work of some of the artists who have been employed by GPO and Royal Mail over the years. Their talk is now available as a podcast.
Well known names such as Bertram Mackennal, Eric Gill, Edward McKnight-Kauffer, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravillious and David Gentleman produced some of their earliest work for the GPO, designing stamps, posters and other items. Brian Webb and Peyton Skipwith discuss these designs, as well as other works by the same artists.
Bertram Mackennal’s “Seahorses” stamp design, issued 1913
David Gentleman’s role in revolutionising British stamp design is well known and has been discussed on this blog before, but Peyton Skipwith notes that many of the design difficulties highlighted by Gentleman in Essays in Stamp Design were also encountered by earlier artists. The problem of how to include the monarch’s head and the value of the stamp into the design was anticipated in Bertram Mackennal’s “Seahorses” stamps, he argues.
Other artists discussed include some of those who worked on the Millennium stamps, such as David Hockney, Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Blake and Craigie Aicheson.
The podcast The Design is in the Post: Artists and the GPO is free to download. While we couldn’t include the designs discussed within the podcast, many of them can be found by searching our online catalogue.
Posted in Archive, Catalogue, Collection, Philatelic, Podcast
Tagged Alan Turing, Bertram Mackennal, Brian Webb, Craigie Aicheson, David Hockney, Eduardo Paolozzi, Edward Bawden, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Eric Gill, Eric Ravillious, Essays in Stamp Design, GPO, Peter Blake, Peyton Skipwith, Royal Mail, seahorses, stamp design
Artists and writers Brian Webb and Peyton Skipwith, who have penned a series of books exploring the work of notable British designers of the 20th Century, will speak at the BPMA on 20th May. The focus of their talk will be the many artists who have worked for the GPO, and how those artists helped to shape the GPO’s image.
The ‘pre-war’ artists Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Barnett Freedman and Eric Gill will be covered in some length, along with well known stamp designers such as Edmund Dulac and Bertram Mackennal. Present day artists who worked on the Millennium stamps, David Hockney, Peter Blake, Craigie Aicheson, David Gentleman, Claire Melinsky and John Lawrence, will also be examined.
Brian Webb has kindly sent us some of the images he will show in the talk:
Magazine cover by Edward Bawden
Eric Ravilious’ un-adopted design for the Adhesive Stamp Centenary, 1940
One of David Gentleman’s illustrations from The Swiss Family Robinson, 1963
Millenium stamps: Freddie Mercury, 2000, designed by Peter Blake
Further information and booking details for The Design is in the Post – Artists and the GPO can be found on our website.
David Gentleman Design by Brian Webb and Peyton Skipwith is available from the BPMA Shop.
Posted in Events, Philatelic
Tagged adhesive postage stamp, adhesive stamps, Barnett Freedman, Bertram Mackennal, Brian Webb, Claire Melinsky, Craigie Aicheson, David Gentleman, David Hockney, design, Edmund Dulac, Edward Bawden, Eric Gill, Eric Ravilious, General Post Office, GPO, graphic design, John Lawrence, Peter Blake, Peyton Skipwith, Philatelic, philately, stamp design, Swiss Family Robinson
Today is National Stamp Day, marking the anniversary of the world’s first postage stamp, the penny black, first issued 170 years ago; today also marks the 100th anniversary of the accession of King George V – the philatelist king. In celebration, and to mark London 2010 Festival of Stamps, Royal Mail has issued a new miniature sheet.
The Accession of King George V miniature sheet
The Accession of King George V miniature sheet features a 1st Class stamp and a £1 stamp.
The 1st Class stamp features the familiar Machin profile of Queen Elizabeth II, superimposed over the profile of George V, designed by the Australian sculptor Bertram Mackennal and used on stamps from 1912-1936 (known as the “profile head”).
The £1 stamp shows the Mackennal profile on the right, while the left hand side shows the three quarter profile of George V engraved by JAC Harrison from a photograph by W & D Downey, the court photographers. Known as the “Downey head”, this profile was used on the first definitive stamps of George V’s reign, until the Mackennal head supplanted it in 1912. These are contained within wreaths with a crown centre top and a couchant lion on the lower edge.
The border of the miniature sheet features a detail inspired by the engraving of St George and the Dragon by Bradbury Wilkinson & Co from the 1929 ninth Universal Postal Union Congress stamps.
Two pictorial First Day of Issue postmarks are available; one features the George V crown, the other George V’s cipher.
The Accession of King George V first day of issue postmarks
The Accession of King George V miniature sheet is available from Royal Mail.
More information on the Downey and profile heads, and the commemorative stamps issued during the reign of George V can be found on our website.
Posted in London 2010, Philatelic
Tagged Bertram Mackennal, Bradbury Wilkinson & Co, Downey head, Elizabeth II, George V, JAC Harrison, London 2010: Festival of Stamps, Machin, miniature sheet, National Stamp Day, penny black, Philatelic, philately, postage stamps, Postal Union Congress 1929, profile head, Royal Mail, stamp collecting, W & D Downey
On Tuesday 11th May, right in the middle of the main London 2010: Festival of Stamps activities, we will welcome Paul Eimers of stamp printers Joh Enschedé to the BPMA. Joh Enschedé have printed many British stamps over the years, but their latest work for Royal Mail is The King’s Stamps miniature sheet, to be released on 8th May to mark the start of the International Stamp Exhibition.
The King’s Stamps miniature sheet features two reproductions of the 1924 British Empire Exhibition stamps designed by Harold Nelson set within a contemporary border with the present value (1st) and the Queen’s head profile. In addition two reproductions of the “Seahorses” design by Bertram Mackennal are also featured; both high value definitives, first issued in 1913, are set within a contemporary border with the value (£1) and Queen’s head. The top of the Miniature Sheet’s plain border contains the text: London 2010 Festival of Stamps with a crown.
The King's Stamps miniature sheet, to be released 8th May 2010
This sheet is printed in both intaglio and lithography. The red, brown, grey and blue ‘stamps’ are printed intaglio, to be as faithful as possible to the original stamps, while the Queen’s head, stamp values and Sheet surround is printed in litho. The technical and design challenges of producing this miniature sheet will be one focus of Paul Eimers’ talk.
First day of issue postmarks to accompany the King’s Stamps have been produced. The London postmark replicates the lion on the British Empire Exhibition stamps, while the Tallents House postmark features part of the “Seahorses” design.
The King's Stamps first day of issue postmarks
The King’s Stamps miniature sheet and related products, including a Prestige Stamp Book written by our Curator of Philately Douglas Muir, will be released on 8th May and can be purchased from Royal Mail.
Tickets to Paul Eimer’s talk on The King’s Stamps are free. For booking details and further information please see the BPMA website.
Posted in Events, London 2010, Philatelic
Tagged Bertram Mackennal, British Empire Exhibition, Douglas Muir, Elizabeth II, First Day Cover, handstamp, Harold Nelson, intaglio printing, Joh Enschede, lithography, London International Stamp Exhibition, miniature sheet, Philatelic, philately, postmark, Prestige Stamp Book, Royal Mail, seahorses, stamp collecting, stamps, The King's Stamps