Tuesday, 11 February 2014


Sven Ewert (1895-1959) developed his engraving talents by training as a young lad under the world-famous engraver Professor Ferdinand Schirnböck, in Vienna. He subsequently worked for various companies, but in the 1920s he felt secure enough to start working as a freelance engraver, which he remained until he was hired by the Swedish post to start engraving postmarks.

Initially, Ewert was hired on an ad hoc basis to do some auxiliary work on engravings of Swedish definitives by Paul Wilcke. Ewert worked on some of the Post Emblem and Lion definitives, which were current in the 1920s. He even worked on a whole new die for the 10 öre violet Lion stamp, issued in 1924.

Ewert’s talent was immediately recognised and the Swedish Post soon took him into permanent employ. In 1928, he was given the opportunity to engrave his first stamp for Sweden. It was an issue marking the 70th birthday of King Gustav V. It would be the first of many, because from then on, Ewert would be the sole engraver of almost all Sweden’s postage stamps until his pupil Arne Wallhorn started taking on some work in the 1950s.

Ewert’s best-known Swedish definitive is probably the series which was introduced in 1951, portraying Sweden’s new king, Gustav VI Adolf. It would also prove to be one of his most troublesome works. Ewert’s first die for the series was praised well enough, but the printers found it surprisingly hard to choose colours which would not be detrimental to the engraving and the design as a whole. 

And so, within a couple of years, Ewert was asked to engrave a new die. This second die is easily distinguishable, because of the background which consisted of horizontal lines on the first die and of cross-hatched lines on the second die. Another change was that the second die included Ewert’s initials in the bottom right corner.

This second die, however, proved even more troublesome, with the portrait having lost its sculpture-like appearance, resulting in very flat printings. It was therefore only used for a couple of values in 1957, and the printers yet again asked for another die. This process was still ongoing when Ewert passed away, so the final die for this series was engraved by CzeslawSlania.

Ewert’s work has been praised for its precision and care, and being able to create in miniature an image which oozes space, yet with every detail being clear and distinct. His meticulous work ethic resulted in a range of beautiful, life-like portraits on stamps and it is for these that he became most famous. It could be argued that the Swedish stamps portraying for example St. Bridget (1941), Strindberg (1949) and Atterbom (1955) are among his finest work, but also stamps such as the 1952 Olavus Petri set, with a design based on an old woodcut of Petri preaching is stunning for its attention to detail. If anything, Ewert’s work seems to radiate the joy he had in his work.

And his talents did not go unnoticed abroad either. The Danish stamp designer Viggo Bang was very impressed with the engraver’s work, again especially when it came to portraits. So when Denmark was preparing a set to mark King Christian X’s75th birthday, Bang recommended Ewert to do the engraving. It would be the start of a fruitful collaboration which saw Ewert also engrave the well-known Danish definitives introduced in 1948, portraying King Frederik IX. In fact, their collaboration lasted until Ewert’s death, with Ewert’s final engraving being for another Danish stamp designed by Bang; the 1959 set marking King Frederik IX’s 60th birthday.  

This article was first published in Stamp and Coin Mart of June 2014 and is reproduced with their kind permission.

Sweden, Posthorn definitives

Sweden, Lion definitive

Sweden, Gustav V definitives

Sweden, King's birthday

Sweden, Air

Sweden, Royal palace

Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus' death tercentenary

Sweden, Postal savings bank

Sweden, Parliament 

Sweden, Tercentenary of post
Sweden, Bromma aerodrome

Sweden, E. Swedenborg
Sweden, Founding of New Sweden
Sweden, King's birthday

Sweden, King and Arms definitives
Sweden, Academy of sciences
Sweden, Redrawn King's definitives

Sweden, C. M. Bellman
Sweden, J. T. Sergel

Sweden, Swedish bible
Sweden, Skansen open air museum
Sweden, Royal palace
Sweden, Hazelius
Sweden, St. Bridget

Sweden, Mute swans
Sweden, National museum
Sweden, C. W. Scheele

Sweden, King's birthday
Sweden, Voluntary rifle association
Sweden, O. Montelius

Sweden, Marine chart
Sweden, Fleet

Denmark, Christian's birthday
Sweden, Red cross
Sweden, Press
Sweden, Viktor Rydberg
Sweden, Savings banks

Denmark, Tycho Brahe
Sweden, Lund cathedral
Sweden, Agricultural show
Sweden, Esalas Tegnér
Sweden, Nobel

Sweden, Erik Geijer
Sweden, King's reign

Denmark, Definitives
Sweden, King and Arms definitives
Sweden, Pioneers in USA
Sweden, King's birthday 

Denmark, Constitution
Sweden, Strindberg
Sweden, Second Lingiad
Sweden, UPU

Sweden, Definitives
Sweden, Polhem
Sweden, Numeral definitive

Sweden, Petri
Sweden, King's birthday

Sweden, Athletic association
Sweden, Stockholm
Sweden, Telecommunications

Sweden, Skiing championships
Sweden, Anna Maria Lenngren
Sweden, Rock carvings definitives

Sweden, Atterbom

Denmark, Northern countries' day
Finland, Northern countries' day
Iceland, Northern countries' day
Norway, Northern countries' day
Sweden, Equestrian competition
Sweden, Northern countries' day
Sweden, Railways

Sweden, Definitives
Sweden, Life saving service

Sweden, Postal services commemoration
Sweden, Football championships
Sweden, Selma Lagerlöf

Denmark, Frederick's birthday
Sweden, State power board

Sweden, Cancer fund

Sweden, Stockholmia 74


Sweden, Test stamps

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