Arnold Machin

From humble beginnings as a potteries apprentice Arnold Machin rose to become an acclaimed sculptor creating the iconic bas-relief portrait of Her Majesty the Queen used on all Royal Mail definitive issue stamps.

Patricia Machin

Patricia Machin was born in 1921 and studied painting at Goldsmith's where her tutor was Leonard Applebee. Finding inspiration from the Old Masters and still-life, she was an established painter, illustrator, designer and author.

Francis Machin

Architect, sculptor, businessman and painter, Francis Machin was a talented designer responsible for a range of conservatories and garden buildings still seen throughout the United Kingdom, United States and Europe.

When Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952, Mary Gillick designed a head depicting the Queen as a young woman to be used on the coinage. In readiness for decimalisation in the late nineteen sixties when the Queen would be forty, the Government had been planning to change the coinage. It was a good opportunity to produce a new effigy of Her Majesty and in 1962 a competition was launched to find a suitable design.

In 1922, the Royal Mint had established an Advisory Committee to advise on matters connected with the designing and preparation of Seals, Coins, Medals and Decorations, and it was their job to draw up a shortlist of suitable artists and sculptors who would compete for the final design. Arnold was one of the sculptors chosen.

Stage Two of the competition was to produce a plaster relief of the Queen's head from photographs taken by Lord Snowdon. Eventually Arnold's portrait was chosen for the obverse side, together with Christopher Ironside's reverse. Arnold then had to produce a true likeness of the Queen and for this he had four sittings at Buckingham Palace. As this was the first time he had worked on a coin design, he found it a difficult and challenging technique. He first made drawings of the the Queen's head, followed by modelling in relief. From theses studies he built up the image working at his London studio, and he finally decided in the summer of 1963 that he would need one further sitting. The Royal Family were away at Balmoral on their summer break and so Arnold was invited to join them there. On returning to London, Arnold continued to work on the effigy, producing several versions and submitted designs for several months. His final portrait, approved by the Queen in June 1964, was handed over to the Mint where it was reduced mechanically with a pantograph machine to coin size. Arnold visited several times to supervise the final engraving. The first two coins (the 5 new pence and the 10 new pence) with the new effigy of the Queen were in circulation in 1968. A year later a 50 new pence piece was introduced, and the remaining coins became available as legal tender on Decimalisation Day, February 15th 1971. In March 1965 Arnold was awarded the OBE.

Around this time Arnold had been appointed Master of Sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools, and in 1964 he found himself sitting next to James Butler, a newly-elected Associate, at an Academy dinner. James was also a sculptor and he agreed to assisting Arnold in the Academy Schools by becoming a visiting tutor. Arnold resigned his post at the Royal Academy Schools after about ten years of teaching there. James Butler is now on of the Trustees of the Machin Arts Foundation.