Monday, 15 July 2013

FAJT, Vaclav

From a very early age, Vaclav Fajt, born in Pilsen in what was then Czechoslovakia, in 1952, has been obsessed with the art of engraving, admiring especially the works of Albrecht Dürer, which he tried to copy. No wonder then that he never considered any other career option but that of an engraver. Fajt learnt his art at the High School of Art in Turnov, and subsequently continued his education at the Special Art School in Prague.

As soon as Fajt had finished his education, in 1973, he went to work for the Czechoslovakian State Printing Works, engraving bank notes. From the start he had also shown a keen interest in engraving stamps. Fajt tirelessly submitted work after work which might enable him to qualify for stamp engraving assignments, but time and again he was turned down. This had nothing to do with the quality of his work. On the contrary, his work on numerous bank notes had already earned him a solid reputation of a very talented engraver. 

No, the reason for all the refusals was a purely political one. Back then, the communist powers in Czechoslovakia had a stranglehold on the production of the state’s stamps. That entailed that everyone wanting to be involved in the design and production of postage stamps had to be a member of the Creative Artists Union. But in order to become a member of this Union, one was obliged to join the Communist Party. Fajt could not bring himself to do this, which meant that all doors remained shut for him.

But luckily for him, the totalitarian regime started to show signs of yielding under popular pressure in the early 1980s. And so, when some of the old guard of engravers were pensioned off or had died, an urgent need for new, young engravers arose and this finally gave Vaclav Fajt the opportunity to enter the domain of stamp engraving, without having to renounce his political convictions.

His first two stamps were two values of the 1983 ‘Nature protection’ issue, depicting water lilies and an edible frog, and grey herons. Such was his talent, that the two stamps were promptly awarded ‘Best Nature stamps’ at an award ceremony in Italy.

These two stamps proved to be the start of an illustrious career as a stamp engraver, with by now over a hundred stamps bearing Fajt’s name. These include many Czechoslovakian stamps, but since that country has split into two, Fajt has engraved many stamps for both the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

His work as an engraver has yielded praise from the highest echelons of Czech society. When Vaclav Havel became President of Czechoslovakia, stamps bearing his portrait were designed and engraved by Milos Ondracek, another of the country’s famous engravers. Around the same time, Fajt had sent Havel an engraved portrait of the president. The president thanked Fajt and said he preferred Fajt’s portrait and wished that one had been chosen for the definitive stamps.

In 1996, Fajt finally got the opportunity to engrave a stamp portrait of Havel, then President of the Czech Republic, as part of a miniature sheet marking the president’s 60th anniversary, but unfortunately for him, that portrait is usually not regarded as superior to Ondracek’s previous portrait.

Engravers are not merely copying a design onto a plate, but they are often faced with issues of clarity, shades, and other printing problems. In 1997, Fajt and famous stamp designer Albert Fuchs worked together on an issue marking the international stamp exhibition Praga 1998. Fuchs praised Fajt no end, stating that Fajt admirably knew how to solve any technical issues with the design, regarding him more as a co-designer than ‘just’ an engraver.

This article was first published in Stamp and Coin Mart of October 2012 and is reproduced with their kind permission. 


STAMPS BY YEAR

1983
Czechoslovakia, Nature protection
Czechoslovakia, Book illustrations
Czechoslovakia, World communications year
Czechoslovakia, Construction
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava

1984
Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovak federation
Czechoslovakia, Olympics (two issues)
Czechoslovakia, Interkosmos
Czechoslovakia, Heroes
Czechoslovakia, Music year
Czechoslovakia, Telecommunications building
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Battle of Dukla pass
Czechoslovakia, Construction
Czechoslovakia, Art
Czechoslovakia, Students day

1985
Czechoslovakia, Trnava university
Czechoslovakia, Ice hockey championships
Czechoslovakia, Chess organisation
Czechoslovakia, Anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, Spartakiad
Czechoslovakia, Construction
Czechoslovakia, Art

1986
Czechoslovakia, Peace year
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Owls
Czechoslovakia, International brigades
Czechoslovakia, Circus and variety acts
Czechoslovakia, Art

1987
Czechoslovakia, Butterflies
Czechoslovakia, Terezin memorial
Czechoslovakia, USSR
Czechoslovakia, Art

1988Czechoslovakia, Olympics
Czechoslovakia, Praga 88 (three issues)
Czechoslovakia, Arms limitation talks
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Paris Dakar rally

1989
Czechoslovakia, Anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, Shipping
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Fungi
Czechoslovakia, Art

1990
Czechoslovakia, Literacy year
Czechoslovakia, Handball championship
Czechoslovakia, Flowers
Czechoslovakia, Liberation
Czechoslovakia, General election
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Mammals
Czechoslovakia, Art

1991
Czechoslovakia, Judo championships
Czechoslovakia, Europa
Czechoslovakia, Castles
Czechoslovakia, Beauty spots
Czechoslovakia, Prague and Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, Art

1992
Czechoslovakia, Olympics (two issues)
Czechoslovakia, Table tennis championships

1993
Czech Republic, Europa
Czech Republic, Brno

1994
Czech Republic, Year of the family
Czech Republic, Benes
Czech Republic, UNESCO
Czech Republic, For children
Czech Republic, Art

1995
Czech Republic, Liberated theatre
Czech Republic, Townscapes
Czech Republic, For children
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Concentration camps
Slovakia, UNO

1996
Czech Republic, Vera Mencikova
Czech Republic, Olympics
Czech Republic, Mammals
Czech Republic, Vaclac Havel
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Art

1997
Czech Republic, Endangered plants
Czech Republic, Europa
Czech Republic, Praga 1998
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Naive art triennale
Slovakia, Endangered fungi

1998
Czech Republic, Stamp production
Czech Republic, Anniversaries
Czech Republic, Art
Czech Republic, World heritage sites

1999
Czech Republic, Council of Europe
Czech Republic, Olympic committee
Czech Republic, Europa
Czech Republic, Bridges
Czech Republic, Art

2000
Czech Republic, Brno 2000
Czech Republic, Fungi
Czech Republic, IMF and World bank meeting
Czech Republic, Olympics
Czech Republic, Art

2001
Czech Republic, Europa
Czech Republic, Volleyball championship
Czech Republic, Birth anniversaries
Czech Republic, UNESCO
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Archaeological sites
Slovakia, Political trials

2002
Croatia, Vlaho Bukovac
Czech Republic, Vlaho Bukovac
Czech Republic, Nature conservation
Czech Republic, UNESCO
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Winemaking implements
Slovakia, Greetings
Slovakia, Skalica rotunda

2003
Czech Republic, Oriental rugs
Czech Republic, Birds of prey
Czech Republic, Art

2004
Czech Republic, Technical monuments
Czech Republic, Brno 2005
Czech Republic, Places of pilgrimage
Czech Republic, Art

2005
Czech Republic, Petr Ginz
Czech Republic, Battle of Austerlitz miniature sheet
Czech Republic, Year of physics
Czech Republic, Art

2006
Czech Republic, Children
Czech Republic, Prague castle
Czech Republic, Wooden churches
Czech Republic, Art

2007
Czech Republic, Celebrities
Czech Republic, Beauties of our country
Czech Republic, Jan Amos Comenius
Czech Republic, Water towers
Czech Republic, Art

2008
Czech Republic, Celebrities
Czech Republic, Orbis Pictus
Czech Republic, Beauties of our country
Czech Republic, Ice hockey
Czech Republic, Expedited mail in 1750
Czech Republic, Art

2009
Czech Republic, St Maura relics
Czech Republic, Ministry of Industry and Trade
Czech Republic, Beauties of our country
Czech Republic, Mills
Czech Republic, Art

2010
Czech Republic, Karel Hynek Macha
Czech Republic, Carpets
Czech Republic, Children
Czech Republic, Art

2011
Czech Republic, Beauties of our country
Czech Republic, Execution of lords
Czech Republic, Art

2012
Czech Republic, Jiri Trnka
Czech Republic, Beauties of our country
Czech Republic, Masaryk circuit
Czech Republic, Art

2013
Czech Republic, Beauties of our country
Czech Republic, Battle of Leipzig
Czech Republic, Art

STAMP-RELATED ITEMS BY YEAR

1995
Slovakia, FDC illustration Concentration camps
Slovakia, FDC illustration UNO

1996
Slovakia, FDC illustration Art

1997
Slovakia, FDC illustration Naive art triennale
Slovakia, FDC illustration Fungi (3 types)

2000
Slovakia, FDC illustration Easter

2001
Slovakia, FDC illustration Archaeological sites
Slovakia, FDC illustration Political trials

2002
Slovakia, FDC illustration Winemaking implements (2 types)
Slovakia, FDC illustration Greetings
Slovakia, FDC illustration Rotunda

OTHER WORK

1985
Czechoslovakia, 10 korun banknote P94 (1)
Czechoslovakia, 20 korun banknote P95 (1)
Czechoslovakia, 50 korun banknote P96 (1)

1993
Czech Republic, 200k banknote P6 (1)
Czech Republic, 5000 korun banknote P9 (1)

1994
Czech Republic, 20 korun banknote P10 (1)

AWARDS

Mlada Fronta Best Stamp Poll. Category: Engraver's interpretation of work of art.

1988 - Ricci's Bacchus and Ariadne

GPSPA. Categrory: Best intaglio stamp

2004 - Slavicek (issued in 2003 as part of Art series)

Notes:
(1) papirovaplatidla website

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