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RIP, Paul Calle, Premier US Stamp Designer

By January 3, 2011

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Paul Calle, one of the premier designers of U.S. stamps has diedCalle was the designer of 40 plus U.S. postage stamps, though he is probably best known for the 10-cent Apollo 11 moon landing stamp of 1969. A proof version of the stamp was canceled on the moon by astronauts Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin.

null(A card sent out by The White House to mark the first day of issue of Calle's Apollo 11 moon landing stamp. (From the collection of the author. Stamp Image © USPS))

Calle was among the first group of artists chosen to picture America's space race efforts in 1962. Although the moon landing stamp is his best known, he also produced the Gemini Space Twins stamps of 1965, two setenant (joined) 5 cent stamps picturing a mini-panorama including the Gemini capsule and the first U.S. space walk.

He was well-prepared for creating space themed stamps as earlier in his career he had been a cover artist for science fiction magazines including Galaxy and Super Science Stories. Other than his space stamps, he designed commemoratives for the USPS to honor Robert Frost, General MacArthur and Pearl Buck, among many other subjects.

Calle's son Chris is also a stamp designer and they worked notably together on stamps to commemorate the Apollo 11 mission's 25 anniversary. Collectors might take a moment to consider what Paul Calle's legacy is and to offer his memory a silent thought of gratitude.

When the Art School for Children and Young Adults at the University of Houston-Clear visited the Johnson Space Center, NASA released this statement about Calle's art:

"The unique invitation extended to Paul Calle to draw/visually document the Apollo 11 mission illustrated to the students how important artistic responses are to great historic events. After 'following' Calle and looking at what astronauts wear, how astronauts train, and what astronauts do in space, the students did their own pencil drawings of astronauts doing something."

A new generation "carrying the fire" of the artist who helped define the art and style of space is perhaps the best tribute of all. Calle's art has been widely shown, including at the National Gallery of Art and the National Air and Space Museum, both located in Washington D.C.


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