Friday, 17 September 2010

The 2001 Arnold Machin Retrospective

I love living in coastal California, but as a long-time Machin Maniac, I often wish I lived closer to London. One of those times was in 2001, when I learned about the retrospective exhibition of Arnold Machin's work held at the Royal Academy Schools.

I got an brochure about the exhibition and put information about it and a number of images from it on my web site.

Recently, I purchased the catalogue of the exhibition, pictured above. It includes a brief biography, a list of the 260 items displayed, a chronology of his life, and excerpts from his autobiography.

Included were images of several of Machin's preliminary sketches plus some trials and essays for his stamp and, of course, one of the final plaster casts. I think all of these have been illustrated elsewhere, including in Douglas Muir's 2007 book, A Timeless Classic: The Evolution of Machin's Icon. (Available here.)

The key quote from his autobiography is this:

Until now it was still thought that the stamp would follow a similar format as before, incorporating lettering in a frame containing the portrait, but when we looked at the image that was to be used I commented to George York (Design Director at Harrison and Sons): 'It looks so fine and dignified without a frame or lettering, is it really necessary to include them?' He spoke to the Post Office and to our delight it was agreed that everything could be omitted except the values. So the stamp design was then concluded. I am convinced that had I not been allowed to work out the design with the manufacturers the final result would have been very different and far less successful.

Here's a little more background about Machin. And just for fun, here's a chess piece that he did. You can click Next and Previous to see the others.


Oh, and about living near London...when I was there for two weeks in May, I saw the sun for a total of about 15 minutes. That's why I'm in California.


Ian - Norvic said...


You spent a lot of time in the Stamp Show venue - the sun could have been shining and we would never have known!

It was warm, though, and I mostly was in shirt-sleeves, but the sun didn't make many appearances!

Charlie Jensen said...

I was going to mention that Sunny California thing as I read your posting but see that it dawned on you near the end. And then there are all the California Stamp shows that you would miss.
I enjoyed London years ago but like many far-away places they are best enjoyed in two or three week bites. (Except Honolulu).