Seldom do I think about stamps these days — actually, for the last 12 years or so — because I don’t send letters or mail bills anymore. The obvious needn’t be stated. So surprise-surprise when Professor Kriz holds an exhibit at his law offices for some 15 postage stamp art pieces.
The exhibited pieces were the original mock-ups that artists designed for the annual contest the Czech postal service holds for its first-class stamp. These mock-ups, along with the final proof sets, were the winning designs for the years 1993 – 2010, for which the Czech Republic was solely its own country and no longer connected with Slovakia.
The pieces ranged from pastoral scenes to royal portraits to Art Nouveau nudes. The inclusion of the artist mock-ups (or “paste-ups” as printers/lithographers call the practice) gave a nice look at the artists’ eye. For one thing, many of these pieces were details from famous paintings that can be found in the National Gallery, from which the artists had to render a graphic replica/duplicate.
Also, each artist developed a second art-detail used as a sort of watermark ink-stamp used on the front of envelopes (but I forget why … maybe air-mail or “class” identifier). The layouts of each piece really was art itself, not a showcase per se of postage stamps.
One display case also had original litho plates, showing the five-plate, five-color printing technique that makes stamps so crisp, and artworks themselves, not simply tax commodity affixations.
As always, Prof Kriz put on a good show, and I recognized in the crowd famous artists, personalities, pols & lobbyists, etc etc … along with the good professor’s English instructor. Good wines and beers were served, with knowledgeable staff that explained the vintage, place of origin, etc. Upstairs, a full buffet of classic Czech foods enticed the visitors. There’s this particular smoked bacon that’s served cold, and it’s positively delicious, not so fatty, that makes you feel like an animal gnawing on a bone. Outstanding!
After a few glasses of wine, and a chat with the professor, I was off into the still-light summer evening, taking a walk across Old Town Square and on past the astro clock.