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Edmonia Lewis

Series: Black Heritage

First Day of Issue Date: January 26, 2022

First Day of Issue Location: Washington, DC

About This Stamp

The 45th stamp in the Black Heritage series honors sculptor Edmonia Lewis (c.1844–1907). As the first African American and Native American sculptor to earn international recognition, Lewis challenged social barriers and assumptions about artists in mid-19th century America.

The stamp art is a casein-paint portrait based on a photograph of Lewis by Augustus Marshall made in Boston between 1864 and 1871.

The work Lewis produced during her prolific career evokes the complexity of her social identity. Known by an Ojibwe name that translated into English as Wildfire, she made and sold crafts for tourists for part of her childhood when she lived with her aunts near Niagara Falls, New York. Many details of Lewis’s early life are unclear, and Lewis herself cultivated a deliberate air of mystery about her upbringing. Her brother, a successful entrepreneur, appears to have funded her education, a rare opportunity for a young African American and Native American woman in the 1850s.

Lewis’s drawing of the muse Urania, her earliest known work, was made during her time at Oberlin College in Ohio. In Boston in the early 1860s, Lewis sculpted clay, plaster, and marble busts and medallion portraits of famous men and women, and she exhibited and sold plaster-cast replicas at public events.

In 1865, Lewis sailed for Europe and settled in Rome, where she created marble neoclassical sculpture that often incorporated African American and Native American subjects. A Roman Catholic, she also made numerous religious sculptures, exhibited and sold her work at Catholic events, and took commissions for sculptures for churches in Baltimore and Scotland. At the same time, her studio became a must-see attraction for American tourists. She continued to sculpt busts of prominent Americans who visited Rome in the 1870s and 1880s, and she frequently returned to the United States to exhibit and sell her work.

With heightened attention to Lewis’s life and career in recent decades, previously unlocated works have come to light, and she has become more widely represented in museums and private collections. As the public continues to discover the beautiful subtleties of Lewis’s work, scholars will further interpret her role in American art and the ways she explored, affirmed, or de-emphasized her complex cultural identity to meet or expand the artistic expectations of her day.

Art director Antonio Alcalá designed this stamp with art by Alex Bostic.

The Edmonia Lewis stamp is being issued as a Forever® stamp in panes of 20. This Forever stamp is always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce price.

Stamp Art Director, Stamp Designer

Antonio Alcalá

Antonio Alcalá served on the Postmaster General’s Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee from 2010 until 2011, when he left to become an art director for the U.S. Postal Service's stamp development program.

He is founder and co-owner of Studio A, a design practice working with museums and arts institutions. His clients include: the National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Phillips Collection, and Smithsonian Institution. He also lectures at colleges including the Corcoran College of Art + Design, SVA, Pratt, and MICA.

In 2008, his work and contributions to the field of graphic design were recognized with his selection as an AIGA Fellow. He has judged international competitions for the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, AIGA, and Graphis. Alcalá also serves on the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and Poster House Museum’s advisory councils. His designs are represented in the AIGA Design Archives, the National Postal Museum, and the Library of Congress Permanent Collection of Graphic Design.

Alcalá graduated from Yale University with a BA in history and from the Yale School of Art with an MFA in graphic design. He lives with his wife in Alexandria, Virginia.

Stamp Artist

Alex Bostic

Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Alex Bostic attended art classes at Pratt Institute on weekends. Intent on making a career in art, he graduated with a BFA in Illustration from Pratt in 1979 and earned his M.A. in Illustration from Syracuse University in 1994. Before establishing his own studio in 1990, he worked for several design studios and served as an illustrator draftsman for the U.S. Navy.

An experienced teacher of illustration, Bostic was an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University from 1990 to 2010 and has been an associate professor of art at Mississippi State University since 2010. A wide range of magazines, journals, exhibitions, and books have featured his illustrations and cover art, including a 2010 exhibition interpreting the universe of Star Wars that later became a popular book. His award-winning work is in the collection of numerous museums and private collections.

After 40 years as an illustrator, Bostic turned his focus to becoming a traditional figurative artist. He paints in a natural, realistic style, using oil as his main medium, sometimes employing a variety of techniques in such media as acrylic, colored pencils, and watercolors.

The 2022 Edmonia Lewis stamp, the 45th stamp in the Black Heritage series, is Bostic’s first project for the U.S. Postal Service.

First Day of Issue Ceremony

First Day of Issue Date: January 26, 2022
First Day of Issue Location: Washington, DC

Stamp Stories

  • Kindred Spirits

    Illustrator Alex Bostic shares his experience honoring African American and Native American sculptor Edmonia Lewis.

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