Mairiuna! upon watching a You Tube video about United States postage stamps, I discovered that one of the featured stamps, the $1 value of the 1898 Trans-Mississipi Exposition Issue, internationally known as the “Cattle in the Storm” stamp, was designed from a 19th century painting of Scottish painter, John A. MacWhirter.
Imagine…this stamp was considered for many years the most beautiful US stamp! It was designed at the time by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Wow!..I’m so happy to have found an addition to my Scotland on Stamps topical collection checklist. Not that I could acquire the stamp outright, as it fetches around $500 to $2,000 depending on the condition!
I was so excited about my finding that I wrote a post about it on Discover Topical Stamp Collecting‘s blog and you are kindly invited to hop over to watch the video revealing the available ‘Cattle in a Storm’ pane of 50 stamps. The video was taped during the AM Northwest TV Show, hosted by Helen Raptis and Dave Anderson.
So today, on Scotiana, I would like to introduce you to John A MacWhirter, a very talented artist whose paintings and etchings are truly a beautiful expression of nature’s beauty.
Let’s start with ‘The Vanguard’ painting from which was designed the ’Cattle in the Storm’ stamp. They had seen the original painting at the 1890 Exhibition in New York where the artist’s work was featured and selected same for an engraving by the U.S. Postal Authority for one of the stamps inside the seriecommemorating the Trans-Mississipi Exhibition.
His painting is a depiction of Scottish cattle in a storm in Scotland. It was actually painted in a small farmhouse near the Scottish highland town of Calendar. The scene did not depict an event west of the Mississippi, but it might have been, and few really cared about this detail, for cattle were an important part of the western U.S. economy, and the design was certainly pleasing enough. Source : Chicago Stamps
John A. MacWhirter was born in 1839 in Slateford, Water of Leigh, which is the main river flowing through Edinburgh, to the port of Leith where it flows into the sea,via the Firth of Forth. In 1851, he enrolls at the Trustees Academy managed by Robert Scott Lauder and John Ballantyne where he spent much time sketching nature outdoors. He was only 14 years of age when he first exhibited a painting at the Royal Scottish Academy titled: ‘Old Cottage at Braid’.
MacWhirter specialised in romantic landscapes with a great fondness for trees, spending much time in the hilly countryside of Perthshire. Initially, under the influence of John Everett Millais, he experimented with the detailed images of the Pre-Raphaelites, but later adopted a more sweeping style. With John Pettie he illustrated The Postman’s Bag (Strahan, 1862), and Wordsworth’s Poetry for the Young (Strahan, 1863). Wikipedia
Here’s a short video created with Animoto compiling some of his most beautiful art work and showcasing the famous “Vanguard” painting which became the “Western Cattle In The Storm” on USPS commemorative stamp.
MacWhirter’s belief that a young artist should ‘study the moods of Nature’ and that his picture must be ‘a moment of the day, and should suggest peace or unrest, quiet or storm, joy or sadness, glory or gloom’ shows that he pursued the transitory effects in which McTaggart also was interested, not as ends in themselves, but as a symbolic language reflecting human states of mind.
His trees, which Spielmann with some justice accused him of humanising as Landseer had humanised dogs, do indeed seem to represent in The Track of the Hurricane victims of an almost human carnage. They become the objects in the landscape with which the observer can most easily identify himself, whereas water, in its various states, running or at rest, expresses the forces or emotions to which humanity is subjected, ranging from the destructive fury of a river in spate to the elegiac sadness and alienation characteristic of Millais’ Chill October.
(The Discovery of Scotland – Chapter 12 ‘Change and Decay’)
In 1880, John A MacWhirter was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Scottish Academy. He died at 1 Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood on 28 Jan. 1911, and was buried at Golder’s Green, London, England.