Howard Koslow, a painter and illustrator who for more than four decades designed many of the most recognizable stamps issued by the United States Postal Service, including a 1994 series depicting famous blues and jazz musicians and 30 stamps depicting coastal lighthouses, died on Jan. 25 at his home in Toms River, N.J. He was 91. The death was confirmed by his daughter Amy-Jo Willig.
Mr. Koslow had established a busy practice as a commercial artist, doing corporate reports, book covers and advertising illustrations, when, in the early 1970s, a fellow artist suggested that he try his hand at postage stamps.
In 1971 he secured the commission to design an eight-cent stamp commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty, an agreement among 12 nations to ensure that their research in the Antarctic should be freely shared and nonmilitary. Against a blue background, Mr. Koslow superimposed the official emblem used on treaty documents on a white map of Antarctica.
The following year, for a series honoring the national parks, Mr. Koslow designed a six-cent stamp that depicted an evening concert at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna.
Over his long career he designed more than 50 stamps and postal cards, on subjects including the signing of the Constitution, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island and, as part of the “Legends of American Music” series, eight blues and jazz masters: Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Jimmy Rushing, Howlin’ Wolf, Billie Holiday and Mildred Bailey.
His early stamps, produced by engraving, were executed in a linear style with a limited color palette. Later, using offset lithography, he was able to expand his color range and adopt a more naturalistic style, often working from photographs. While painting his designs, he looked through a reducing glass to see how his work would look when shrunk to about a sixth its actual size.
In addition to his postal work, Mr. Koslow achieved a substantial reputation as a historical painter for the Air Force and NASA. Many of the works he executed while traveling for the Air Force’s Historical Art Program are exhibited at the Air Force Academy and the Pentagon.