Paul Calle (1928-2010) was an artist whose work reflects the dramatic era of America’s Western heritage as well as the one in which he lived. For Calle, the dimensions of art can be as vast as the wild, wind-swept plains of the West, as infinite as outer space and as small as the historic scenes he captures on postage stamps for the United States Postal Service.
Calle designed more than 30 stamps in as many years. Among this noted artist’s many distinctions is the First Man on the Moon series of stamps that he designed which sold more than 150 billion. Other Calle stamps include those honoring Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jesse Owens, Helen Keller, Robert Frost, Douglas MacArthur, Pearl Buck and Frederic Remington, in addition to stamps depicting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the International Year of the Child in 1979 and promoting causes such as volunteerism and encouraging early cancer detection. Calle also designed the U.S. Postal Service’s first twin stamp to commemorate the successful Gemini Space Walk.
Calle’s portrayal of the West is not as a romantic adventure but as a realistic challenge. He has made a personal commitment to portray America’s past with the same sense of history that guided his hand in depicting our nation’s space explorations as an artist for NASA’s Fine Art Program.
Calle was a master of both the oil painting and the pencil drawing. His drawings — often very large — show incredible control and sensitivity; they have the quality of fine etchings. Few contemporary artists have attained greater mastery of the pencil than Calle, who shares his skills in his book, The Pencil, a record of his odyssey as “an artist with a pencil.” It has been translated into French, Chinese and Russian. Another book of his art, Paul Calle: An Artist’s Journey, was awarded the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award for Fine Arts in 1993.
In addition to major corporate and private collections, Calle’s artwork is in the permanent collections of numerous prestigious institutions including The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, The National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Gilcrease Museum. Calle received the distinguished Nona Jean Hulsey Buyer’s Choice Award at the Prix de West Invitational, presented by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center. His drawings and paintings have been widely exhibited in the United States as well as in the former Soviet Union, Sweden and Poland.
Calle said, “If I had to state a goal, a hope pertaining to my work, my aim would be to help keep alive that huge reservoir of our past, to draw strength and sustenance from it and build upon it in ways that are new and different, but not to reject it. I find my inspiration in all the life that surrounds and envelops me, from the evolution of man and his works, of the timelessness of the rocks, the trees, of man, his land, the sky and the sea. That’s what it’s all about: art is always a visual experience. This is my world, and I relish it with great affection.”