American Masterpieces

U.S. Stamp Issues 1998 - Four Centuries of American Art - Vier Jahrhunderte amerikanischer Kunst - Quatre siécles d'art americaine

     The Postal Service has issued in 1998 a palette of artistic issues. They include a pane of 20 commemoratives reproducing, in its opinion, the best of American art from colonial times to the present century.
    The twenty American paintings are featured on the pane of 32-cent stamps. The Postal Service has named them "American Masterpieces" and also "Four Centuries of American Art".
    The chosen m
asterpieces cover the past 400 years, offering a wide range of styles and themes. The following stamps were released:

  • John Foster's "Portrait of Richard Mather"
  • The Freake Limner's "Mrs. Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary"
  • Ammi Phillips' "Girl in Red Dress with Cat and Dog"
  • Rembrandt Peale's "Rubens Peale with a Geranium"
  • John James Audubon's "Long-billed Curlew, Numenius longrostris"
  • George Caleb Bingham's "Boatmen on the Missouri"
  • Asher B. Durand's "Kindred Spirits"
  • Joshua Johnson's "The Westwood Children"
  • William M. Harnett's "Music and Literature"
  • Winslow Homer's "Fog Warning"
  • George Catlin's "The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas"
  • Thomas Moran's "Cliffs of Green River"
  • Albert Bierstadt's "The Last of the Buffalo"
  • Frederic Edwin Church's "Niagara"
  • Mary Cassatt's "Breakfast in Bed"
  • Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks"
  • Grant Wood's "American Gothic"
  • Charles Sheeler's "Two Against the White"
  • Franz Kline's "Mahoning"
  • Mark Rothko's "Number 22, 1949"

Four Centuries of American Art

Issued August 27, 1998

    What's that red blob on the Four Centuries of American Art pane issued August 27? For that matter, what are the two stamps to its left doing on a group of 20 stamps that are supposed to represent outstanding art?
    Some of the other stamps may not be great art but at least they are representational of earlier time periods. Is abstract nonsense the best representation of American Art from the second part of the 20th century? Are Charles Sheeler's "Two Against the White," Franz Kline's "Mahon-ing" and Mark Rothko's "No.   12" some of the influential pieces in art of America as the U.S. Postal Service suggest? If so that doesn't say much for the evolution of art in this century.
    Art is certainly a matter of interpretation but it seems to me that what's passing for good art in some circles is a sad affair. Those who picked these three stamps must be the same people passing off urinals and blank walls as "art." It's a real con game and people with too much money on their hands seem to be highly susceptible. From: Editor's Forum, by Peter Martin, Scott Stamp Monthly, Dec, 1998, p. 6.


     For subject matter, design, appropriateness and impact, my favorite 1998 stamps item was the Four Centuries of American Art pane minus the three "modern art" stamps that were  supposed to represent the best American art of the later half of the 20th century. Even though most of the stamps are details instead of the full blown paintings, the stamps are still "miniature works of art" and help to portray the diversity of American culture... The Red Blob in the pane gets the nod as the worst design. From: Editor's Forum, by Peter Martin, Scott Stamp Monthly, February 1999, page 6.

    Unfortunately for Mr. Peter Martin and for all of us, the "abstract nonsense" he quotes IS "the best representation of American Art from the second part of the 20th century". I understand  by "the best representation" not a mark of quality, but a proof of artistic and philosophical influence. What followed after these already 50-year-old modern "masterpieces" was often even worse (visit any modern arts museum for evidence and then get some fresh air ASAP). V. Manta.

Revised: 12/04/08. Copyright © 1998 - 2000 by Victor Manta, Switzerland. All rights reserved in all countries. Site's Banner
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