US Stamps

Michael Baadke

‘Beautiful Blooms’ stamp art exhibit opens at National Postal Museum

October 16, 2017 09:16 AM

  • Approved art for the 1966 United States 5¢ Plant for a More Beautiful America stamp (Scott 1318) . The gouache and ink on paper illustration by Gyo Fujikawa is part of the Postmaster General’s Collection, currently on long-term loan to the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.

By Michael Baadke

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, “Beautiful Blooms: Flowering Plants on Stamps,” showcases botanical subjects on artwork from the United States Postmaster General’s Collection.

The exhibit opened Oct. 20 at the Washington, D.C., museum and will run through July 14, 2019.

The exhibit “celebrates the variety of flowering plants commemorated on U.S. postage stamps during the past 50 years,” according to the museum.

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“Featured botanical artwork, which includes 29 framed pieces and four pieces of digital art displayed interactively, are organized into seven themes: Flowering Trees; The Rose: Queen of Flowers; Birds in the Garden; Pollination; Botanical Congress; The Seasonal Garden and Beautification of America.”

The exhibit “invites visitors to observe and appreciate not only the compelling artwork, but also the creative process behind stamp design. By juxtaposing concept art and final art, and by linking larger-scale art with images on actual stamps, visitors will be able to see beyond the stamps to their meaning and messaging.”

The exhibit was created in association with Smithsonian Gardens and includes an atrium display with garden furniture and a large path, plus a large-scale mural triptych featuring garden imagery from the Smithsonian Institution’s collection of hand-painted glass lantern slides.

“Our goal is for visitors to enjoy, appreciate and witness the beauty associated with this incredible collection of artwork,” said Elliot Gruber, director of the museum. “Every stamp tells a story, and this exhibition tells the story of the design process and creativity resulting from the beauty of flowering plants on stamps.”

The Postmaster General’s Collection includes a philatelic collection of stamps, proofs, essays and related material, plus original artwork commissioned over more than 75 years for the creation of postage stamps.

The collection was started by the U.S. Post Office Department in the 1860s, and is currently on long-term loan to the museum. Items from the collection were displayed in the museum’s William H. Gross Stamp Gallery when it opened in 2012.

The new “Beautiful Blooms” exhibit will show how stamp illustrations develop, with unfinished and finished artwork in a variety of media, including oils, pastels and digital design software.

“Botanical stamp art, particularly flowering plant stamp art, represents some of the most attractive artwork in the Postmaster General’s Collection,” said Calvin Mitchell, exhibition curator. “This exhibition, displayed in a garden setting, offers the general public a rare view of the stunning artwork that results in the beautiful stamps appreciated by people around the world.”

The National Postal Museum presents the history of the nation’s mail service and showcases one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C., across from Union Station

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information visit their website