Untitled [Design for Centennial Stamp, ChristChurch Cathedral]

Untitled [Design for Centennial Stamp, ChristChurch Cathedral], James Johnstone, c. 1949, Watercolour on paper. UC/MBL/2103

James Johnstone, c. 1949, Watercolour on paper. UC/MBL/2103

In 1949, Canterbury was preparing to celebrate its upcoming Centennial in 1950. As part of these celebrations, a series of commemorative stamps were to be produced, and artists were invited to submit their designs for consideration. As a prominent local designer, James Johnstone submitted at least three designs to be considered, two of which are now in the collection of the Macmillan Brown. This particular design shows the ChristChurch Cathedral precisely rendered and coloured in various shades of brown. The second shows the Canterbury coat of arms at its centre, framed by two pūkeko, and balancing a top hat and a kiwi on its edge. Though both designs were considered, neither was chosen, with the selection committee preferring Johnstone’s design of the founder of Canterbury, John Robert Godley. During the selection process, Johnstone’s particularity and attention to detail became apparent, as he stipulated with his submission that if chosen, his design was to be produced using the high-quality intaglio method of photogravure. However, on February 13, 1950, he was informed that the Department had considered both the photogravure and recess-engraving methods and proofs, and were satisfied that the better result came from the recess-engraving methods. Though Johnstone was by no means happy with this decision, the production went ahead, and 2.5 million featuring the Godley design, in the denomination of 3d (3 pence) were ready in time for the Centennial. The Cathedral was represented on the 1d stamp in a design that had been submitted by J. Berry, of Wellington. Its position at the heart of the city is now particularly relevant, following the significant damage it sustained in the earthquakes of 2010-2011.

James Johnstone : A selection of artworks


Click on the thumbnails to discover more about this striking selection of artworks by James Johnstone. Images selected and written about by Alice Tappenden.

Allandale Springtime, James Johnstone, c. 1953. Oil on Canvas. UC/MBL/2330
Untitled [Botanical Drawing], James Johnstone, Graphite and watercolour on paper, 1920. UC/MBL/2133
Untitled [Design for Chalice], James Johnstone, Pencil and ink drawing on paper, Date unknown. UC/MBL/2061
Untitled [Sheet of sketches for decimal currency], James Johnstone, Graphite, pen and ink on paper, c. 1966. UC/MBL/2138
Diploma of the Edinburgh College of Art, presented to James Alexander Johnstone, 1920. UC/MBL/2151
Floral Design, James Johnstone, Graphite and watercolour on paper. UC/MBL/2109
Untitled [Head Study], James Johnstone, Charcoal on paper, 1913. UC/MBL/2154
On the Solway, James Johnstone, Oil on canvas. UC/MBL/2236
Untitled [Design for Centennial Stamp, ChristChurch Cathedral], James Johnstone, c. 1949, Watercolour on paper. UC/MBL/2103
Untitled [The Camp, Woodend], James Johnstone, 1945, Oil on canvas. UC/MBL/2212
Untitled [Woodend Beach], James Johnstone, 1945, Oil on canvas. UC/MBL/2217
  • Phone Numbers
    Enquiries: +64 3 364 2753 (internal ext 8669)
  • Email Enquiries
    Lydia Baxendell
    Art Collections Curator
    Macmillan Brown Library
    lydia.baxendell@canterbury.ac.nz
  • Postal Address
    Macmillan Brown Library
    University of Canterbury
    Private Bag 4800
    Christchurch 8140