hat-trick has designed a new set of stamps for Royal Mail commemorating the centenary of World War One. Part of a five-year series marking each year of the war, the new collection includes a beautiful abstract poppy print by painter Sir Howard Hodgkin, typography by Kelvyn Laurence Smith and photography by John Ross and Ernest Brooks.
Each set of stamps will feature a portrait of a soldier, a memorial image, a piece of war art, a typographer’s interpretation of a piece of war poetry, a poppy illustration and an image of an artefact from the period.
The first collection, released last year, includes a painting of a single poppy by botanical artist Fiona Strickland, lines from Lawrence Binyon’s For the Fallen carved in stone by lettering artist Gary Breeze and Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson’s war painting, Bursting Shell:
This year’s stamps include the same mix of new and archive artwork, including a striking carborundum print of poppies by Hodgkin (plate shown below):
Lines from Charles Hamilton Sorley’s poem, All the Hills and Vales Along, set in wood type by Kelvyn Laurence Smith (watch our studio visit film with Smith here):
A portrait of Rifleman Kulbir Thapa, the first Nepalese Gurkha to receive the Victoria Cross for his heroism at the Battle of Loos in 1915:
And Eric Kennington’s painting The Kensingtons at Laventie, which depicts the artist (a member of the London Regiment’s 13th Battalion) in a French village with his comrades, after spending four days and nights in the trenches.
The monument image depicts a soldier’s grave at Cape Helles in Gallipoli, photographed by Ernest Brooks:
And this year’s artefact, shot by John Ross, is a leather football which was allegedly kicked across no-man’s land by Rifleman Frank Edwards of the London Irish Rifles on the way to capture enemy trenches at the Battle of Loos.
It’s a lovely set of images, and the contrasting styles provide a very different look to the inaugural collection, while adhering to the themes which will be present in each set of stamps.
“We wanted to show variety, both in the stories behind each image and in artists’ interpretations,” explains hat-trick’s 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.
“Obviously we also have to be mindful of acknowledging Commonwealth soldiers as well as British ones – it’s tricky getting that balance just right – and trying to keep each design very simple, to let the image do the talking,” he adds.
“I’m a massive fan of Howard Hodgkin’s work, and we felt it would provide a very different interpretation of the poppy theme to Fiona Strickland’s. It was the same with the typography – Kelvyn Smith was very influenced by propaganda posters of the era, and it’s a good contrast with Gary Breeze’s work,” he says.
Stamps cost £6.95 and are available to order on Royal Mail’s website.