World Stamps

Original artwork commissioned for Royal Academy of Arts stamp set

May 3, 2021, 3 AM
Six contemporary artists designed their personal portrayal of the Royal Academy of Art’s summer exhibition for Great Britain’s stamps commemorating the academy’s 250th anniversary. The summer show is a yearly tradition as old as the organization. Royal Ma

By Molly Goad

London’s Royal Academy of Arts is celebrating its 250th birthday this year, and Great Britain’s Royal Mail is delivering a fitting present of six new stamps featuring designs created for the issue by acclaimed artists. 

The Royal Academy of Arts stamps arrive June 5 in three vertical se-tenant pairs, each with two designs to honor an organization that has been going strong for two and a half centuries. 

“On a winter’s day in 1768, architect Sir William Chambers visited the king, George III,” the Royal Academy of Arts website said. “He brought with him a petition signed by 36 artists and architects including himself, all of whom were seeking permission to ‘establish a society for promoting the Arts of Design’ … Lucky for us, the King said yes.” 

The academy describes itself as “the world’s foremost artist and architect-led institution.” It is an independent organization that does not receive funding from the government, relying on the support of visitors, donors, sponsors and the Friends of the Royal Academy group.

Each stamp design was created by a different, well-known contemporary artist, including Grayson Perry, who is coordinating the academy’s 250th summer exhibition — a massive open-submission art show and annual tradition. 

These artists all carry the royal academician title, a special designation of members who have been nominated and elected by their peers. 

For the new commemorative stamps, they designed their personal portrayal of the summer exhibition.

The first stamp pair features artwork titled Summer Exhibition by Perry and Queen of the Sky by painter Fiona Rae on nondenominated first-class stamps. The first-class domestic rate is currently 67 pence.

Perry works in a variety of mediums, but is best known as a ceramicist. He was the 2003 Turner Prize recipient, an award that has been presented to a British visual artist yearly since 1984. 

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Pictured on the pair of £1.25 stamps are designs by Norman Ackroyd and Barbara Rae. These stamps pay the rate for letters to Europe up to 20 grams and to other international destinations up to 10 grams.

Ackroyd’s etching, titled St Kilda: The Great Sea Stacs, depicts scenery from the World Heritage site located 41 miles west of Benbecula in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. (“Stac” is a Gaelic word meaning a precipice or steep rock or hill.) 

Barbara Rae’s colorful piece is called Inverleith Allotments and Edinburgh Castle. 

Black, white and splashes of color on umbrella tops don Queuing at the RA by Yinka Shonibare, the top stamp in the £1.55 pair. The second design is a sketch of two faces called Saying Goodbye by Tracey Emin. These stamps pay the rate for letters to Europe up to 100 grams.

Royal Mail Group Ltd. designed the stamps. Each stamp measures 37 millimeters by 35mm and is perforated gauge 14 by 14.5. International Security Printers printed them by offset in sheets of 60, sold in panes of 30 at most postal outlets.

Royal Mail’s other products for this set include first-day covers, six postcards reproducing the designs of the stamps, and a presentation pack with mint examples of the stamps and a text by art critic and senior lecturer Gilda Williams, explaining the key aims and activities of the academy.

Ordering information is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland.

Royal Mail’s agency in the United States is Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557.

For more information, see the Royal Mail website.