Hat-Trick's latest WW1 Royal Mail stamp range
Hat-Trick's latest WW1 Royal Mail stamp range

Howard Hodgkin creates new WW1 stamps

The Turner Prize winner joins other creatives in the Royal Mail's ongoing philatelic commemoration

“In 1915, the nature of warfare changed forever, as front line soldiers faced terrible new weapons and even the skies over Britain held menacing and deadly Zeppelins,” says the Royal Mail. Why is Britain's postal service offering this kind of historical commentry? Because it has just issued its second and latest and set of stamps to commemorate World War I. 

 

 

Howard Hodgkin's poppy stamp for Royal Mail's new range
Howard Hodgkin's poppy stamp for Royal Mail's new range

In 2014, Royal Mail began this annual centenary series, which will run until the 100th anniversary of the 1919 armistice. This new, 2015 set marks the second year of the conflict and is designed the British agency Hat-trick, which was also responsible for last year’s range. And like the first centenary collection, these follow the same format, with the designers commissioning some significant creatives to execute four of the six stamps.

The First World War 1915 Presentation Pack, which was issued earlier this month, comprises a portrait of a soldier, a memorial image, a piece of war art, a piece of war poetry in type, an illustrated poppy and an image of a relevant artefact.

 

Eric Kennington's stamp from the Royal Mail's new range
Eric Kennington's stamp from the Royal Mail's new range

The poppy picture is by abstract painter, print-maker and Turner Prize laureate Sir Howard Hodgkin. Typographer Kelvyn Laurence Smith of Mr Smith’s Letterpress Workshop set a line of the war poem, All The Hills And Vales Along by Charles Hamilton Sorley, in uppercase wood type.

 

John Ross's football stamp from the Royal Mail's new range
John Ross's football stamp from the Royal Mail's new range

Photographer John Ross shot a leather football believed to have been kicked across no-man’s land during the Battle of Loos in 1915. Meanwhile Hat-trick used a picture by official WWI photographer Ernest Brooks of a soldier next to a grave at Cape Helles, the landing place of British and French forces on Gallipoli 100 years ago.

Ernest Brooks' Gallipoli stamp from the Royal Mail's new range
Ernest Brooks' Gallipoli stamp from the Royal Mail's new range

 

“We wanted to show variety, both in the stories behind each image and in artists' interpretations,” says Hat-trick's founder Gareth Howat. “There are so many stories to tell about 1915, and the war, that you're spoilt for choice, and one of the hardest things is editing it down while keeping that variety,” he adds.

Looks like Mr Howat has done a pretty good job. For more on graphic ingenuity, from the advent of the Gutenberg Press right up until today, get a copy of the Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design.