Sunday, 7 April 2013

LACAQUE, Eugene

Eugène Lacaque (1914 – 2005) started his working life in the textile industry, which was where his father worked as well. There he learned how to engrave cylinders that were used to produce printed fabrics. During this period he first attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Mulhouse and subsequently in Paris. In 1937 he went back to Mulhouse and opened his own business specialising in engravings for the textile industry. His family business flourished and Lacaque received a number of awards for his artistic and industrial engravings.

Decades later, in 1967, a very fine portrait of Charles de Gaulle by his hand was brought to the attention of the French postal authorities and they invited him to engrave postage stamps. His first stamp was issued in 1968. It is the 160k value from the Beetles set issued in Laos.

Lacaque’s work must have pleased the postal authorities for he remained in their employ. His first French stamp was issued in 1970. It is one of the values of the French Art set for that year, depicting the sculpture “The Triumph of Flora” by Carpeaux. It was received as a masterpiece. The year after saw the issue of the first philatelic tribute to Charles de Gaulle, with the two portrait stamps of this landmark set being engraved by Lacaque.

After this, there was no stopping him and in the thirty odd years that followed Lacaque engraved some 600 stamps, mainly for France and her former Empire, but also for other European countries. Besides all these he also engraved hundreds of philatelic documents and non-philatelic illustrations. His subject matter was very diverse, ranging from portraits of the great and good to reproductions of paintings and sculptures.

Much of his work has been praised and awarded with various accolades. In 1975, his French stamp commemorating the 80th anniversary of the People’s Theatre in Bussang was voted the most beautiful French stamp of the year. For his 1978 stamp, depicting the Head of Christ on a Mali stamp, Lacaque was awarded the “Grand Prix of Philatelic Art of the African Nations and Madagascar”. His 1981 set for Monaco, commemorating the 225th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, was voted the most beautiful music stamp in the world for that year. This must have pleased Prince Rainier of Monaco, who was especially enamoured with Lacaque and his work. But Lacaque, by now nicknamed “the man with golden fingers”, remained modest, always stating that he never worked for these honours but was inspired by the feeling of satisfaction he got when executing an engraving particularly well.

Lacaque had another nickname: “engraver of the impossible”. No better was this illustrated than in 1999, when he entered the Guinness Book of Records for being able to engrave 78 lines on a square millimetre! His fellow contestants managed no more than 35 to 40.

Lacaque did have a few regrets in his life. For one he regretted never having been able to compete for the Prix de Rome, the prestigious French art scholarship because, when trying, he no longer qualified because of his age.  His only philatelic regret was that he was never given the chance to engrave a Marianne definitive, the pinnacle of each French engraver’s ambitions. This is not for want of trying. He once entered a Marianne competition and, among 700 entries, his design was chosen for further consideration. But the engraving of the stamp was entrusted to somebody else who did not have the vast experience of Eugène Lacaque. This engraver failed to translate the beauty of the design into the engraving, so that the end result did not have a thing on the original design. Based upon the engraved proofs, the authorities eventually decided to opt for someone else’s design.

This article was first published in Stamp and Coin Mart of October 2011and reproduced with their kind permission. 

STAMPS

1968
Laos, Beetles
Laos, Olympics

1969
Monaco, Leonardo da Vinci
Monaco, Daudet

1970
Comoro Islands, Vendredi mosque
Central African Republic, Musical instruments
France, Art
French Territory of the Afars and the Issas, Sports
Monaco, Expo 70
Niger Republic, Europafrique
Senegal, Industrial and urban development

1971
France, Art
France, Tourism
France, Charles de Gaulle
Khmer Republic, UN Children's fund
Malagasy Republic, Death of general Charles de Gaulle
Monaco, Hydrographic bureau
Reunion, De Gaulle

1972
Chad, Economic development
Comoro Islands, Landscapes
France, Philatelic societies congress
Gabon, Olympic games Munich
Malagasy Republic, 150th anniversary of Razafindrahety college
Mali Republic, Death centenary of Samuel Morse
Monaco, Princes and Princesses
Monaco, Historical monuments
St. Pierre et Miquelon,  Ocean fish
Senegal, 75th death anniversary of Alphonse Daudet

1973
Cameroun, 25th anniversary of WHO
Cameroun, Centenary of WMO
Cameroun, Cameroun fruits
Cameroun, Cameroun villages
Congo, 10th anniversary of World Food programme
Dahomey, 10th death anniversary of President Kennedy
France, Stamp day
Khmer Republic, Marshal Lon Nol
Mali Republic, Famous sculptures
Mali Republic, Musical instruments
Monaco, Telecommunications day
Monaco, St Theresia of Lisieux
Monaco, St. Francis of Assisi
Niger Republic, Classical sculpture
Senegal, 50th anniversary of Interpol

1974
Cameroun, Arphila 75
Central African Republic, Centra cigarette factory
Chad, World cup football championships West Germany
Comoro Islands, Red cross
Congo, 30th anniversary of Brazzaville Conference
Dahomey, Famous composers
Dahomey, 70th death anniversary of F. Bartholdi
France, Philatelic societies
Gabon, 30th anniversary of Brazzaville conference
Mali Republic, Follereau commemoration
Mauritania, Birth centenary of Sir Winston Churchill
Niger Republic, Handicrafts

1975
Congo, Birth centenary of Dr Albert Schweitzer
Dahomey, Birth centenary of Dr Albert Schweitzer
France, Albert Schweitzer
France, Peoples theatre
France, Regions
Gabon, Birth centenary of Dr Albert Schweitzer
Gabon, International women's year
Laos, Peace treaty
Luxembourg, Albert Schweitzer
Mauritania, International women's year
Mauritania, Birth centenary of Dr Albert Schweitzer
Monaco, Holy year
Niger Republic, International women's year
Niger Republic, Birth centenary of Dr Albert Schweitzer
St. Pierre et Miquelon, Arphila 75
Senegal, Birth centenary of Dr Albert Schweitzer

1976
France, Tourism
France, Red cross
Luxembourg, Telephone centenary
Mali Republic, Konrad Adenauer
Monaco, Literary council
Tunisia, World health day

1977
Congo, 175th birth anniversary of Victor Hugo
France, Art
France, Craftsmanship
France, Red cross
France (Council of Europe), Definitives
Gabon, 150th death anniversary of Beethoven
Luxembourg, Famous visitors
Mali Republic, First death anniversary of Mao Tse-tung
Monaco, Carriere d'un navigateur 

1978
Andorra (French), Europa
Congo, Congolese sculpture
France, Art
France, Red cross
France (Council of Europe), Human rights
Iceland, Famous Icelanders
Iceland, Life-saving association
Mali Republic, Easter
Mali Republic, Christmas
Monaco, Charles Perrault
Monaco, Salvation army
New Caledonia, Pastor Leenhardt.

1979
Andorra (French), Europa
France, Red cross
France, Tourism
Iceland, Famous Icelanders
Iceland, Jon Sigurdsson
Luxembourg, Anniversaries
Monaco, Sir Rowland Hill
Monaco, Albert Einstein
New Caledonia, Sir Rowland Hill

1980
Andorra (French), Pre-Romanesque art
France, Tourism
Mali Republic, Birth centenary (1981) of Sir Alexander Fleming
Mali Republic, Bicentenary of American revolution
Monaco, Hans Christian Andersen
Monaco, Art exhibition

1981
Andorra (French), Art
France, Virgil
France (Council of Europe), Definitives
Luxembourg, Tourism
Monaco, Mozart
New Caledonia, Ships

1982
Andorra (French), Romanesque art
Andorra (French), St Thomas Aquinas
France, Basel Mulhouse airport
France, Anti-racism campaign
Monaco, Mercantour national park
Monaco, Birth anniversaries
Monaco, Virgil
New Caledonia, Ships.

1983
Andorra (French), Romanesque art
France, Art
French Polynesia, Martin Luther
Monaco, Precancels
Monaco, St Charles church
Monaco, Birth anniversaries
Monaco, Fig

1984
France, Art
France, Stamp day
French Polynesia, Air (Gauguin)
Monaco, Olympics
Monaco, Lady of Laghet sanctuary
Wallis & Futuna Islands, Denis Diderot

1985
Andorra (French), Pre-Romanesque art
France, Anti-rabies vaccination
French Polynesia, Italia 85
Monaco, Precancels
Monaco, Musical composition competition
Monaco, Youth year
Monaco, Birth anniversaries
Wallis & Futuna Islands, Albert Schweitzer

1986
Andorra (French), Postal museum
French Polynesia, 1880 sailing ships
Monaco, Anniversaries and events
St. Pierre et Miquelon, Statue of Liberty

1987
Andorra (French), Romanesque art
France, Marshal Leclerc
Monaco, Anniversaries
St. Pierre et Miquelon, François Dunan
Wallis & Futuna Islands, Auguste Rodin

1988
Andorra (French), Romanesque art
France, Tourism
France, Strasbourg
Monaco, Birth centenaries
St. Pierre et Miquelon,  Nellie J. Banks schooner

1989
France, Marshal Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
Monaco, Artists
Monaco, Aide et présence

1990
Andorra (French), Mural
France, Art
St. Pierre et Miquelon, Pou du Ciel
Wallis & Futuna Islands,  Auguste Rodin

1991
France, Tourism
Monaco, Orange tree
Wallis & Futuna Islands, Mozart

1992
Monaco, Columbus exhibition
Wallis & Futuna Islands, Auguste Rodin

1995
French Southern and Antarctic Territories, A and E Aubert de la Rue
French Southern and Antarctic Territories, Mont d'Alsace

1996
French Southern and Antarctic Territories, Southern whale sanctuary

1997
French Southern and Antarctic Territories, René Garcia

2 comments:

  1. Hi Adrian,
    This is a great article. I particularly like the stamp featuring the head of Christ - C'est magnifique !! I was wondering, whose Marianne design was chosen over Lacaque's?

    Matt

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    Replies
    1. Ah yes, Mali issued quite a lot of beautiful Dürer engravings as Easter stamps in those years. They're worth collecting and would make a lovely little collection.
      As for Marianne: I think the winning design was that of Marianne de Briat, introduced in 1989. You can find a picture of Lacacque's design here: http://ma-marianne-de-briat.org/projet/le-projet-non-selectionne-deugene-lacaque

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