When I first blogged about the 2012 French stamp program, I was surprised at how much interest the Edward Hopper (1882-1967) stamp garnered. The stamp is part of this year’s Artistic series (série artistique). While it was released on 3 February 2012, I finally picked one up at my local post office today. La Poste started issuing Artistic stamps in 1961. André Malraux, at the time Minister of Culture, encouraged the French post to issue a series of stamps featuring works by major artists. The first set of stamps feature works by Braque, Matisse, Cézanne and La Fresnaye. Since then, every year 4-5 stamps have enlarged the series creating a mini-museum for stamp collectors worldwide.
I’m still trying to figure out on what grounds the French Post chose to honor Hopper as an artist and why they chose to highlight Morning Sun (Soleil du matin, 1952) in particular. While Hopper has his place among major 20th century artists, and clearly is one of America’s foremost modern painters, his work is largely displayed outside of Europe in American museums and galleries. France has not hosted a major retrospective of his work to my knowledge. Perhaps the stamp is France’s way of commemorating the 130th anniversary of his birth or the 45th anniversary of his death? Early in his career, Hopper spent several months in Paris and French culture remained with him throughout his life. He first visited Paris in 1906, painting, visiting museums and returned again on two separate occasions in 1909 and 1910. Le Quai des Grands Augustins (1909), Le Pavillon de Flore (1909), Gateway and Fence (1907) and Le Parc de Saint Cloud (1907) all show Hopper’s Paris. While perhaps not the most emblematic of Hopper’s work, I think a painting from his time in France would have made a neat choice and given the stamp a fuller Franco-American flavor.
I was lucky enough to visit the Tate Modern’s 2004 Hopper show which included Morning Sun, the painting selected for this year’s stamp. Morning Sun is an oil on canvas painted in 1952 featuring a woman lost in thought as she sits facing the sun. The woman, modeled by Hopper’s wife Jo, seems isolated and cut off from the world even as she watches it from her bed to me. The painting is part of the Columbus Museum of Art’s collection. The image is powerful even reduced to stamp size. It’s a stamp that I’m saving for the right person and occasion. Unlike the majority of stamps which cater to a general audience, the Hopper stamp feels a bit more selective to me….or perhaps I’m just reading too much into the painting for my own good!