Saturday, 22 April 2017

BIOGRAPHY: Heinz W. Gutschmidt

Heinz W. Gutschmidt was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1906. His father was a bank clerk but in his spare time loved to make music and paint. His mother, too, was interested in all things artistic. As a child, Heinz suffered malnutrition during the First World War and was sent, like many other war children, to Sweden, in the summers of 1919 and 1920, where he stayed with a furniture dealer in Gothenburg. He enjoyed life in Sweden very much and was always reluctant to return to Germany.

In 1923 he finished his secondary education and subsequently travelled to Sweden, to escape an inflation-riddled Germany. But his father had arranged for him to go to work in a lightbulb factory in Berlin, where he could learn about advertising. Not the sort of thing Heinz was dreaming of. He was still dreaming of Sweden but did realise that his father was right: he did need an education before he could move away. What's more, with the graduation certificate for drawing with which he left the factory, he gained access to the Berlin Academy of Arts, in 1925.

While there, he made up his mind he wanted to become an engraver, so he was very happy to be given as position at the German State Printers in 1926. There he received further training for a couple of years, but times were increasingly hard in Germany and in the early 1930s the printers were forced to lay off many people, among which was Heinz.

He was 26 at the time, and while his family was able to withstand the bad economic times relatively well, Heinz was pining away, still dreaming of his beloved Sweden. And so, in 1933, he went to Gothenburg, moving in with Constanze Lindberg, an elderly acquaintance he knew from his summers spent there as a child. He tried to make a living painting pictures and making graphic illustrations. But in 1935, residence permits became obliged for non-Swedish residents. Ms Lindberg had become to rely on Heinz in her old age, so a lawyer advised her to adopt him. This was duly done so Heinz could stay in Sweden. In 1938, he obtained Swedish citizenship.

That same year Heinz found work at the porcelain factory Rörstrand in Gothenburg where he worked as an engraver and painter. But the firm could not survive the economic situation caused by the Second World War, so again Heinz Schmidt was being laid off when the firm went bust.

Being told by someone that the Swedish post was looking for postmen, Heinz applied and duly got the job. He remained a postman for the next 16 years, enjoying his work very much. A heart attack then forced him to stop working. While convalescing, to kill the time, Heinz drew a few essays for stamp designs. An employee of the Swedish Post saw these and was so impressed she immediately informed her boss. He asked Heinz to submit a proper stamp essay.

Heinz had never been so nervous in his whole life, he later said in an interview. His essay was approved on 14 April 1961 and that's how Heinz Gutschmidt became a stamp engraver with the Swedish Post.

Heinz' first engraved stamp was the 2k50 value of the Three Crowns, or Small Arms definitives, which had been introduced in 1939. This particular value was issued in August 1961. Three more values in this design were to follow between 1964 and 1969.

Of the many stamp Heinz engraved since his debut, he liked his 1966 definitive, depicting Ale's Stones in Kaseberga, best of all. His church door engraving of the 55ö value in the 1970 'Swedish Forgings' set is another one he was very pleased with.


Nordisk Filateli, October 2011

You will find Heinz Gutschmidt's database HERE.

Friday, 21 April 2017

DATABASE: Sophie Beaujard


France, Germaine Ribière


Engraving for Art du Timbre Gravé


Saturday, 15 April 2017

VIDEO: Yves Baril

Here are two videos of an interview with Yves Baril. They're in French but they both have English subtitles.


While the more specific talk is about banknotes, we do get a glimpse of what I think is his 6c Centennial stamp lying on his desk.


Video two deals with the infamous Devils' Face on the Canadian banknotes, which Yves Baril had to erase. This is his re-engraved portrait.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

BIOGRAPHY: Wilhelm Gottfried Nuesch

Wilhelm Nuesch was born in Switzerland on 27 April 1863. Little is known about his early life and what is still known is thanks to the efforts of René Jacobson who managed to speak to various family members of Wilhelm in Argentina. He studied at the Academy of Arts in Biel, Bern, where his teacher was Hutenlocher. 

What happened after he left the academy is not clear but his trace can be picked up again in 1889, when he was hired by the Litografia e Imprenta La Unión firm in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a company part-owned by the Austrian Rudolf Laas. The company became famous for its high-quality output and grew steadily, changing its name to Sociedad Stiller & Laas and finally to Compañía Sudamericana de Billetes de Banco (CSBB). It soon picked up valuable government orders for security papers. Nuesch became known as Guillermo Godofredo.

Wilhelm engraved quite a few outstanding issues for the company: his first one was the 1892 Argentina issue to mark the centenary of the discovery of America by Columbus. They were the first commemorative stamps issued in South America. Four colour proofs were printed from each value and proofs of the die without value exist in two colours.

Strangely enough, the original essays were similar to the issued stamps but with a pattern of vertical lines all over the design. These essays were rejected and the eventual stamps did not have any lines at all. The actual vignettes do seem to be identical, though, so it may well have been that these striped essays were derived from an unstriped master die which was later used for the stamps.

That same year he engraved the portraits of Rivadavia, Belgrano and San Martin, for the new Argentina definitive series. The original designs were still by Ferdinand Schirnböck, Wilhelm's predecessor, but he left and Nuesch, now promoted to master engraver, subsequently modernised and simplified the designs and engraved the actual stamps. The original dies for the Rivadavia stamp showed a background of cross hatching, with the horizontal lines strong and the vertical ones barely visible. The eyes are clearly defined and the shoulders rounded and free from the frame. A 5c value of this die was proofed in twelve colours and a multi-value proof sheet exists as well. Another 5c was proofed which had no background at all surrounding the portrait.

The Belgrano proofs for single values were printed on card, but multi-value proofs exist as well and these were on thinner paper. Single proofs on thinner paper would stem from these.

The San Martin values were proofed without value or other lettering, with just the portrait as a stand-alone engraving. A different engraving of the San Martin portrait exists as well, more like that of the previous set, placed in two different frames.

The following definitive set, depicting an allegory of Liberty, was also engraved by Nuesch. Although no essays have survived it seems very likely that Nuesch was inspired by similar stamps issued in his home country, the Seated Helvetia stamps of 1862. The Argentine stamp landed the printers company a joint first prize at the Manchester (GB) international exhibition of stamps in 1899. Some sources state that this was the first set in which Nuesch hid his trademark N somewhere in the design. It is to be found in Liberty's dress, just above her foot. Proofs exist of a 45c with a blank sky. There were also proofs of this stamp as an official stamp but these were eventually never issued.

In 1902, Nuesch engraved the set to mark the completion of the Port Rosario Docks.

Another major set for Nuesch was the 1910 issue to mark the centenary of the deposition of the Spanish Viceroy. Again, we should be able to find Wilhelm’s N somewhere hidden in the engraving. The following have been recorded:
0.5c: right lower corner of the vignette, above the o of mayo
2c: in the circular motif of the cabinet
10c: above the R and U of Beruti
50c: above 25 
5p: top right of th window on the right.

Furthermore Nuesch engraved the 1901 Official stamps and the 1902 series of postal bonds. The first proofs of the 1901 official stamps show that the original background consisted of horizontal lines only. The eventual stamps would have horizontal and vertical lines as background.

Unattributed he also engraved banknotes, stocks and shares.

Nuesch also engraved national, provincial and local revenue stamps. Among those are the 1898 to 1901 inland revenue tobacco stamps, the 1900 to 1906 sanitary and medicinal products stamps, stamps for the Municipal Chemical Office in Buenos Aires of 1894-1898, Burial stamps of 1898-1900, 1898-1901 stamps for the Guides of the Directorate of Supply, etcetera.

Nuesch did not only engrave for Argentina. For Bolivia he engraved the portrait of General Sucre which was used for the 1899 definitives. It looks like there is a hidden N just below the man’s lapel.

For Paraguay Nuesch engraved a number of definitive sets. He started with the 1900/1901 sets for both postage and official mail. This was followed in 1905/1906 with the engravings of the Lion and National Palace definitives. A third and final large set engraved by Nuesch appeared in 1913, consisting of postage, official and postage due stamps. For Paraguay Nuesch also engraved the 1911 issue to mark the centenary of independence. This engraving, too, has a secret N, hidden in the folds of Liberty’s dress.

For Uruguay he engraved the 1909 Opening of Montevideo Port issue, the 1910 Argentine revolution set and the 1911 Postal Congress issue.

Outwith philately, he also engraved book and magazine illustrations.

He remained with the company until his retirement in 1916. The situation is again not clear but Nuesch did participate in a strike in that year so whether he simply retired or was fired is no longer known. After that he held a range of different jobs, such as propaganda chief of a brewery, and photographer for a company producing picture post cards.

Wilhelm Nuesch passed away on 11 March 1926 in Buenos Aires.

Wilhelm Gottfried Nuesch's database can be found HERE.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

CHAT: Just a bit of fun...The Result

Cor blimey, that's gonna be a one off! No-one has taken up the challenge of putting names to the signatures. I know that many of you have seen the post so I'm gonna give you the answers anyway.

This was the actual card:

Most of the signatures appear on the engravings you get when you're a member of the Art du Timbre Gravé (which of course you all should be!). These are the ones I could find out:

4) Guy Vigoureux

6) Christian Broutin
7) Jacky Larrivière

8) Louis Arquer

9) Cyril de la Patelliere

10) Gilles Bosquet

11) Claude Perchat

12) Cécile Millet

I presume the Claude will have been Claude Andreotto.

And as you can see, signatures nos 2 and 5 are still a mystery to me! Maybe one day someone will enlighten me?!


Saturday, 25 March 2017

BIOGRAPHY: Mario Baiardi

Mario Baiardi, an engraver and sculptor, had worked in Italy on various banknotes before he was asked, along with other excellent Italian engravers, such as Pietro Nicastro, to come to the Argentina Mint in 1948. The prime objective was to found a school of engravers, so that the quality of recess-printing could be raised to a high level of excellence.

Baiardi stayed in Argentina for four years. He was then asked to return to Italy, to found a school of engraving over there. During his stay in Argentina, Baiardi was famed for his artistic skills. Using as thin a burin as possible, Baiardi managed to engrave portraits, skin, fabrics so lifelike that it looked like a photograph was taken. Even his colleague Pietro Nicastro, who was so demanding he did not easily find praise for anyone, called Baiardi a phenomenon.


Mario Baiardi's database can be found HERE.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

CHAT: Just a bit of fun

...Pour Claude en toute amitié philatélique...

Just a bit of fun this week. Can you identify the twelve signatures on this card? And who's Claude?
Clue: they're probably all French!

Your answers via the comments please.

In a fortnight we'll have the results.

Sorry, no prizes to be awarded, just eternal fame.


Saturday, 11 March 2017

BIOGRAPHY: Johannes Josephus Aarts

Courtesy of RKD
Johannes Josephus Aarts was born in The Hague, the Netherlands, on 18 August 1871. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Amsterdam.

Aarts’ first engravings show how he tried to move away from his work as a painter and search for tighter control of forms and decorative solutions to problems. As an intermediate step away from painting, Aarts started drawing in black and white and it is this work that made other artists suggest he should take up engraving. Wood engraving was yet another step towards the ultimate goal of copper engraving. During this time he moved more and more towards a realistic approach, both in subject matter and style. Elementary is another word often used for his engraved art. He took the farmer, the polder boy, the fisherman, the beggars family and other lifelike figures central and even though he placed them in elementary surroundings, symbolised by the earth, a tree, or what not, it was still the figure which remained central, and as such Aarts’ work was a vital link in the development of subject matter for the 19th century engraver.

Aarts had imposed himself on the Dutch postal authorities as being the best choice for engraving the upcoming 1913 Dutch Independence issue. However, his work was not highly thought of by everyone, with his contemporary engraving for a new banknote, the ‘Labour and Welfare’ 10 guilder banknote (P34), which would be issued in 1917, being criticised.

In the end, the designer of the set, Mr de Bazel, was given the choice of engraver and he chose Aarts. Aarts started in December 1912 but it took him to mid September 1913 to finish the twelve dies. This was mainly due to circumstances beyond his control, such as delays caused by the postal authorities and badly worked out reference and design material. The original date of issue, in September 1913, could no longer be realised and the stamps would eventually not appear until the end of the year.

In 1923, Aarts was asked to engrave the high values of the forthcoming Dutch Silver Jubilee set, depicting a throned figure. Aarts did not know that the printers Enschedé had asked their in-house engraver Jan Warnaar as well to make a die. Aarts nearly exploded when he found out, and more so when he heard that Warnaar's die was thought to be superior to his own work. He immediately wrote in to resign the assignment but the postal authorities managed to calm him down and in the end a compromise was reached by having Aarts engrave the throned figure design and Warnaar the design for the low values, a portait of Queen Wilhelmina. Aarts had already made a die for that design as well, and it is with that unaccepted die that colour proofs were made for the set.  

Aarts was a Professor at the Dutch Royal Academy of Visual Arts. In that capacity he taught a good number of future stamp engravers, such as Debora Duyvis, Sem Hartz, Hubert Levigne and E. Reitsma-Valença.

Aarts died in Amsterdam in 1934.


Handboek Postwaarden Nederland

You will find J J Aarts' database HERE.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

QUESTION: Another whodunit

A fortnight ago I asked you my first of probably many Whodunits. This time I have a new one for you. It may be a bit easier because the exact item is known, the printer is known, the year of printing is known and I even have a probable signature of the engraver for you. So here it is:

Gorgeous isn't it?! As you can see, we're not talking stamps here, but cinderella. This is a label produced for Lloyds Bank Limited, for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition held in London. It was part of a display of Exhibition Items shown at my local club the other month and it's probably rather rare. Which doesn't make it less intriguing, of course!

So we have the item, we have the year and I know for certain it was engraved and printed by Bradbury Wilkinson. But that's where it stops. However, it looks like we have one (or maybe even two?) signature, which may well be of the engraver, though it could of course also be from the designer, or the approver.

Thinking the initials may well be LCB, I immediately thought of Chris Broadbridge. He was BW, so I got that bit right, but then he only started in 1964 so that's no good at all. So I gave up...

Can any of you help me out at all? Hope so!


Friday, 24 February 2017

BIOGRAPHY: Georges Betemps

Georges Bétemps was born in Paris, France on 19 February 1921. Georges was a student at the Ecole Estienne, the Parisian School of Arts where so many famous French stamp engravers got their diploma. He also studied at the School of Arts in Bordeaux.

In 1941, Georges interrupted his studies to become part of the French Resistance.

Georges started engraving stamps in 1946. His first issue were a number of values of a new definitive set issued in Cameroun. He engraved the ‘Native Head’ design of the 15f, 20f and 25f values, all from 1946, and the ‘Aeroplane, African and mask’ design which was used for the top value, issued in 1947.

Georges Bétemps’ first French stamp did not appear until 1961. That year, he engraved the 45c+10c value from the Red Cross Fund issue, portraying the caricaturist Honoré Daumier.

Like a few other fellow engravers, Georges sometimes used to colour in his die proofs, which were printed in black, with water colours or liquid ink, to get a better idea of what the eventual stamp would look like. These have been available on the market but are very scarce.

Another feature, which is unique to the work of Georges Bétemps, is the existence of large twin die proofs. These were made for stamps printed with the six colour printing process (TD6), which was introduced in 1962. Three colours were printed directly from the printing plate, for which a negative master die was needed, and three more colours were added in indirect recess, for which a positive master die was needed.  Now, these twin die proofs are quite standard, but Georges persuaded the French authorities to allow him to make special large twin die proofs, which would include the finished stamp with a first day cancel. These do not include the official embossed seal of the French printers. He was allowed to make these, but was forbidden to sell them or even give them away. Georges Bétemps is the only engraver who has been granted this privilege. After his death, Georges' widow did sell some of these special twin die proofs.

In 1964, his design for the annual Europa stamp was chosen and his flower with 22 petals (one for each member state) adorned many a European stamp. However, of the 17 countries adopting this design, only three produced hand-engraved, recess-printed stamps. Two of those, for France and Monaco, were engraved by Georges, with the third one, for Switzerland, engraved by Karl Bickel Jr.

Georges Bétemps has tried several times to get his essay chosen for a new Marianne stamp, for example in the mid 1970s when the authorities were on the lookout for a replacement of the Pierre Béquet Marianne of 1971. That time round, however, it as eventually Pierre Gandon’s Sabine which was eventually chosen.

When in 1973 France introduced the so-called Philatelic Documents, limited edition folders with extra information on stamp issues, Georges Bétemps engraved many illustrations for these. His first one was for the 1974 Europa issue. Most were to accompany stamps he also engraved, but sometimes he engraved illustrations for stamp issues which he was not involved in, such as that for the 1f plus 10c stamp of the Anniversary of Liberation set issued in 1974. The actual stamp was engraved by Michel Monvoisin.

The first time Georges Bétemps won the Grand Prix de l’Art Philatélique was in 1983, for his interpretation of Gustave Doré’s ‘Bluebeard giving keys to his wife’. The philatelic document accompanying the stamp included another of Georges Bétemps’ engravings of Doré’s work; this time a self-portrait thought to date from 1872. 

When interviewed in 1984 by the magazine 'Le monde des Philatélistes', Georges talked about the diffifulty of reproducing an art work on a stamp. First of all there is the problem of size. Many art works are large canvases and it is hard to reduce the image to the small format of a postage stamp wihtout losing too many details, he said. Furthermore, there is the problem of colours. Where painters can mix any colour they like on their palette, the engraver has to work with two bits of steel and a maximum of six colours to represent the art work. This is where sometimes using the photogravure printing method may give a more accurate reproduction. There, too, one works with six colours, but the mixing process is more accurate. Blue and yellow give the right shade of green, whereby, if you use the same blue and yellow in the recess-printing process, you're never quite sure whether the result will be the one you aimed for.

Georges Bétemps furthermore said that even though he works with stamps all day long, he is not a collector. The only stamps he would collect would be those he could need as reference material for his own work.

In 1990, Georges Bétemps won the Grand Prix de l’Art Philatélique a second time; this time for his French Polynesia issue, a set of four stamps depicting the Maori World. Georges Bétemps was to add to this initial series two more times, in 1991 and 1992, both times with three more values.

Georges Bétemps passed away on 18 April 1992, while still active engraving. By that time he had been responsible for the design and engravings of more than 1500 stamps.

The French Wikipedia entry for Georges Bétemps mentions that a street was named after him in Vigneux-sur-Seine, a few miles southeast of Paris. This, however, was a different Georges Bétemps, also a member of the resistance though, who was shot by the Germans during World War Two.

Georges Bétemps' database can be found HERE.