You can now send a little piece of history with your next letter or parcel. Australia Post has created three new stamps from Archibald Prize-winning paintings, spanning 100 years of the annual art competition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
The stamps feature Del Kathryn Barton’s portrait of Hugo Weaving, which won the Archibald Prize in 2013, William Dargie’s painting of Albert Namatjira (1956) and William Dobell’s portrait of Margaret Olley (1948).
The three paintings were chosen by Australia Post’s philatelic team and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Margaret Olley, 1948, Portrait of Albert Namatjira and Hugo were prize-winning portraits that would translate best to the small scale of a stamp. They were chosen from 6000 finalist works over the last century.
Artist Del Kathryn Barton told Broadsheet she was very excited to see her artwork translated to a practical material object. “I was really delighted. One thing that’s always slightly problematic with my work, given the level of detail and scale, is that often the work doesn’t translate into a smaller image size, but I think in this case it does work well,” she says.
“I’m very nostalgic about letters, stamps, envelopes and stationery, so for me it’s particularly sweet and nostalgic. I’m really still very passionate about hard-copy objects and materiality and doing things in real time and space, so I think it’s a really lovely idea.”
The 2013 portrait of actor Hugo Weaving is watercolour, gouache and acrylic on a 200 x 180-centimetre canvas. As a stamp it’s a fraction of the size. Barton’s works are highly detailed and known for their illustrative figures. She’s won the Archibald Prize twice, first in 2008 for a portrait of herself and her two children.
“Because of my Archibald wins, a lot of people associate portraiture with my practice. It is something I only attempt at best maybe once a year, so when I do I’m particularly mindful of my subjects. What’s meaningful to me, especially in the context of the Archibald, is to paint people I admire enormously, and Hugo Weaving was one of those people.
“I hadn’t met him before the experience of painting him, and he came to my studio for his first sitting and there was an immediate sense of engagement and connection. I think that quality of energy and connection, even though you’re painting someone you don’t know well, really translated in the end with that particular portrait.”
Barton is the only female artist selected for the commemorative stamps; 2021 was the first year gender parity was achieved for artists selected as Archibald finalists.
“I think there’s a wonderful, timely and important revisiting and rewriting of history when it comes to giving exposure to women artists and women across all creative industries,” says Barton. “That’s something I’m particularly excited about … hopefully [we] will cease to be a minority, and hopefully one day [this] will be something we no longer have to think or talk about.”
Barton says Weaving is an iconic artist in Australia’s history (“He has such a beautiful, striking face”). But are there any other works of art she’d like to see on a stamp in the future?
“What actually springs immediately to mind is one of my favourite Australian artists, the great Joy Hester. Her work has extraordinary graphic quality to it, and emotionality and physicality. In particular for me the works she made as she was dying have this palpable quality to them – there’s many to choose from and they would all translate quite well.”
Each stamp costs $1.10. You can buy them from participating post offices, via mail order by calling 1800 331 794, and online. While stocks last.