Wednesday, 10 June 2015

ONDRACEK, Milos

"Engraving is the classic medium through which a creator can express his individuality."

Barely a teenager, Milos Ondráček (born 1936) became interested in drawing. He himself attributes this to the fact that the family came from the highland area of Czechoslovakia, where people are known for their artistic skills. Milos’ teacher saw his potential and made his parents send him to the School of Arts and Crafts in Trutnov. A little homesick at first, Milos stayed the course and completed his schooling in 1955. Although his education was very much geared towards metal engraving for jewellery, he did have his first encounters with freestyle engraving as well.

After having completed his military service, Ondráček came to work in the Czech cooperative world, mainly doing industrial engravings. When his former art teacher from Trutnov was advertising for an engraver to work on bank notes at the State Printing Office in Prague, Milos took his chance and was taken on board from 1960 onwards. His work on bank notes quite logically extended to an interest in stamp engraving. He took all the necessary steps, joined all the necessary unions and organisations, submitted his work to the relevant ministries, but nothing much happened.

During those days in the mid 1960s, multi-coloured recess-printing had just become all the rage, and so Milos submitted another design based on this printing technique. It was an engraving of the painting “St Jerome” by Master Theodoric. It seemed at first that again nothing would happen, but his design was finally accepted and appeared in the Art series of 1969.

Milos Ondráček never looked back and has since engraved over 400 stamps, many of which are of his own design. His work is lauded with awards and recognition. At least five times did the Czechoslovakian Ministry for Communications award him first prize for his stamp and banknote engravings. Internationally, too, his work was noticed and appreciated. France declared a 1989 Czechoslovakian banknote of his to be the best in the world, and Germany thought likewise of his 1978 stamp depicting Old Prague and the Charles Bridge. International recognition stretched even further when Ondráček was allowed to engrave one of the values for the large “Great Americans” definitive set of the 1980s and 90s, issued in the United States.

A large part of Ondráček’s work consists of stamps depicting artwork, issued in the annual “Art” series of Czechoslovakia, and now the Czech Republic. These often form quite a challenge. Not only does a work of art need to be reduced in size enormously, without losing its characteristics, but there’s the added problem of only having available a limited number of colours. The challenge is therefore to use several layers of engravings so that the five or six hues end up being a dazzling spectrum of colours. When first starting out to reproduce such works of art, Ondráček used to stand in front of the actual paintings for weeks on end, trying to memorize every bit of the painting and figuring out a way to reproduce this on stamp format.

Although Ondráček still designs and engraves many stamps, he is not too optimistic about the future  of the stamp engraver. Modern technology eats away at the profession at both ends. Fewer and fewer people write letters, leading to a reduced demand for stamps, and computer engraving leads to a reduced demand for engravers, which will lead to fewer people taking up the old art.  Ondráček feels that the future for the engraver lies firmly with bank notes rather than stamps, as here the influence of technology is felt less keenly. 

This article was first published in Stamp and Coin Mart of December 2011 and is reproduced with their kind permission.
 
STAMPS BY YEAR

1969
Czechoslovakia, Art

1970
Czechoslovakia, Ancient buildings
Czechoslovakia, Intercosmos

1971
Czechoslovakia, Building definitive
Czechoslovakia, Communist party
Czechoslovakia, Communist party congress
Czechoslovakia, Hunting exhibition
Czechoslovakia, Book illustrations
Czechoslovakia, Medicinal plants
Czechoslovakia, Postage due
Czechoslovakia, Intersputnik day
Czechoslovakia, Art

1972
Czechoslovakia, Postage due
Czechoslovakia, Olympics (two issues)
Czechoslovakia, Anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, Book year
Czechoslovakia, Graphic art
Czechoslovakia, Trade union congress
Czechoslovakia, Ships
Czechoslovakia, USSR
Czechoslovakia, Art
Czechoslovakia, Songbirds

1973
Czechoslovakia, Graphic art
Czechoslovakia, Martyrs
Czechoslovakia, Cosmonautics day
Czechoslovakia, Telecommunications
Czechoslovakia, Hunting organisation
Czechoslovakia, Trade union congress
Czechoslovakia, Airlines
Czechoslovakia, Art

1974
Czechoslovakia, Postal service
Czechoslovakia, Federal constitution
Czechoslovakia, Economic assistance
Czechoslovakia, Graphic art
Czechoslovakia, Partisan heroes
Czechoslovakia, Musical instruments
Czechoslovakia, BRNO 74
Czechoslovakia, Tapestries
Czechoslovakia, Art

1975
Czechoslovakia, Spartacist games
Czechoslovakia, Fishes
Czechoslovakia, tapestries
Czechoslovakia, Motor cycles
Czechoslovakia, Space research
Czechoslovakia, Liberation
Czechoslovakia, Art

1976
Czechoslovakia, Anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, Olympics
Czechoslovakia, table tennis championships
Czechoslovakia, Events and anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, Tapestries
Czechoslovakia, Communist party
Czechoslovakia, Agricultural exhibition
Czechoslovakia, Campaign against smoking
Czechoslovakia, Wildlife park
Czechoslovakia, Art

1977
Czechoslovakia, Police aides corps
Czechoslovakia, PRAGA 1978
Czechoslovakia, Porcelain
Czechoslovakia, Book illustrations
Czechoslovakia, Air
Czechoslovakia, Music council
Czechoslovakia, Space research
Czechoslovakia, Art
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava

1978
Czechoslovakia, Steeplechase
Czechoslovakia, Victorious February
Czechoslovakia, Kremnica mint
Czechoslovakia, Road safety
Czechoslovakia, Sports events
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, PRAGA 1978 (two issues)
Czechoslovakia, Folklore festival
Czechoslovakia, Broadcasting
Czechoslovakia, National gallery

1979
Czechoslovakia, Space flight
Czechoslovakia, Anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, Biosphere
Czechoslovakia, Slovak uprising
Czechoslovakia, Year of the child
Czechoslovakia, Art
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava

1980
Czechoslovakia, Olympics (two issues)
Czechoslovakia, Anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, Spartakiad
Czechoslovakia, UN
Czechoslovakia, Flower shows
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, Art

1981
Czechoslovakia, Five year plan
Czechoslovakia, Coaches
Czechoslovakia, Celebrities
Czechoslovakia, Construction
Czechoslovakia, Defence
Czechoslovakia, Book illustrations
Czechoslovakia, Art

1982
Czechoslovakia, Destruction of Lidice
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, Construction
Czechoslovakia, October revolution
Czechoslovakia, Sculptures
Czechoslovakia, Art

1983
Czechoslovakia, Celebrities
Czechoslovakia, Space flight
Czechoslovakia, Nature protection
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Book illustrations
Czechoslovakia, World communications year
Czechoslovakia, Construction
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, Art
Czechoslovakia, Stamp day

1984
Czechoslovakia, Interkosmos
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, UPU
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Slovak uprising
Czechoslovakia, Olympics
Czechoslovakia, Construction
Czechoslovakia, Art
Czechoslovakia, Zapotocky

1985
Czechoslovakia, UNO and peace year
Czechoslovakia, Space project Vega
Czechoslovakia, Security conference
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, Book illustrations
Czechoslovakia, Art

1986
Czechoslovakia, Communist party
Czechoslovakia, Film festival
Czechoslovakia, Prague-Moscow air service
Czechoslovakia, Olympic committee
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, registration label
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, Owls
Czechoslovakia, Circus and variety acts
Czechoslovakia, Art

1987
Czechoslovakia, Orders and medals
Czechoslovakia, Nuclear power industry
Czechoslovakia, Trade unions congress
Czechoslovakia, Interkosmos
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Mathematicians and physicists
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, Praga 88
Czechoslovakia, Art
Czechoslovakia, Stamp day

1988
Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovakia anniversary
Czechoslovakia, Praga 88 (three issues)
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Bratislava
Czechoslovakia, Art

1989
Czechoslovakia, Federal republic
Czechoslovakia, Paris Dakar rally
Czechoslovakia, Anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, Shipping
Czechoslovakia, Art
Czechoslovakia, Prague castle
Czechoslovakia, Amphibians
Czechoslovakia, Folk art collective
Czechoslovakia, Slovak rising
Czechoslovakia, Fungi

1990
Czechoslovakia, Anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, Havel
Czechoslovakia, Flowers
Czechoslovakia, Papal visit
Czechoslovakia, Horakova
Czechoslovakia, Dog show
Czechoslovakia, Steeplechase
Czechoslovakia, Art
Czechoslovakia, Stamp day
United States, Great Americans, 32c Luce

1991
Czechoslovakia, Scout movement
Czechoslovakia, Birth anniversaries
Czechoslovakia, International exhibition
Czechoslovakia, Antarctic treaty
Czechoslovakia, Art

1992
Czechoslovakia, expo 92
Czechoslovakia, WW2 forces
Czechoslovakia, Beetles
Czechoslovakia, Troja castle

1993
Czech Republic, Ice skating championships
Czech Republic, Havel definitives
Czech Republic, Weightlifting championships
Czech Republic, Rowing championships
Czech Republic, Trees
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Trees

1994
Czech Republic, Birth anniversaries
Czech Republic, Winter olympics
Czech Republic, Europa
Czech Republic, Sokol congress
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Art
Slovakia, Ships

1995
Czech Republic, Birth anniversaries
Czech Republic, Europa
Czech Republic, Wrestling championships
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Scout
Slovakia, Art

1996
Czech Republic, Philharmonic orchestra
Czech Republic, Bohemian kings
Czech Republic, Jean Gasparde Deburau
Czech Republic, Kladruby horses
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Slovak perspectives
Slovakia, Art

1997
Czech Republic, St Adalbert
Czech Republic, Jewish monuments
Czech Republic, Rudolf II and Prague
Czech Republic, Swimming and diving championships
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Art

1998
Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel definitives
Czech Republic, St Valentine's day
Czech Republic, Skibob championships
Czech Republic, Charles university
Czech Republic, For children
Czech Republic, Art
Czech Republic, Founding of republic
Czech Republic, Signs of zodiac
Slovakia, Slovak insurrection
Slovakia, Art

1999
Czech Republic, Signs of zodiac
Czech Republic, Easter
Czech Republic, Joachim Barrande
Czech Republic, Beuron School
Czech Republic, Art

2000
Czech Republic, Signs of zodiac
Czech Republic, Tomas Masaryk
Czech Republic, Birth anniversaries
Czech Republic, Mathematics year
Czech Republic, Historic buildings
Czech Republic, Art
Czech Republic, Christmas

2001
Czech Republic, Signs of zodiac
Czech Republic, Jan Komensky
Czech Republic, Baroque art
Czech Republic, Dogs
Czech Republic, Mills
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Detva costumes
Slovakia, Agricultural institute

2002
Czech Republic, Olympics
Czech Republic, Art
Czech Republic, Jan Hus
Czech Republic, Zodiac pisces
Czech Republic, Emil Zatopek
Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Educational anniversaries

2003
Czech Republic, Celebrities
Czech Republic, Zodiac aries
Czech Republic, Lace
Czech Republic, Europa
Czech Republic, Josef Dobrovsky
Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Easter

2004
Czech Republic, Hockey championships
Czech Republic, Francesco Petrarca
Czech Republic, Olympics
Czech Republic, Paralympics
Czech Republic, Art

2005
Czech Republic, Easter
Czech Republic, Celebrities
Czech Republic, Baseball
Czech Republic, Curling
Czech Republic, Art

2006
Czech Republic, Celebrities
Czech Republic, Kings of the Premyslovci
Czech Republic, Art

2007
Czech Republic, Cancer prevention
Czech Republic, 750 years Mala strana
Czech Republic, Children
Czech Republic, Emil Holub
Czech Republic, Art

2008
Czech Republic, Jiri z Podebrad
Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus
Czech Republic, Travellers
Czech Republic, Karel Plicka
Czech Republic, Art

2009
Czech Republic, Polar regions
Czech Republic, Children
Czech Republic, Majesty of Rudolf II
Czech Republic, Barbora Marketa Eliasova
Czech Republic, Art
Slovakia, Union of philatelists

2010
Czech Republic, Winter olympics
Czech Republic, Winter paralympics
Czech Republic, Enrique Stanko Vraz
Czech Republic, Prague castle in postage stamp art
Czech Republic, Protected area hills
Czech Republic, Celebrities
Czech Republic, Postal museum
Czech Republic, Art

2011
Czech Republic, Rosenberg year
Czech Republic, Art

2012
Czech Republic, Stamp production
Czech Republic, Tintoretto
Czech Republic, King Frederick II's golden bull
Czech Republic, Art
Czech Republic, Virgin Mary at St Hostyne

2013
Bulgaria, Saints Cyril and Methodius
Czech Republic, George Orwell
Czech Republic, Milos Zeman
Czech Republic, Paolo Veronese
Czech Republic, Zavis Cross
Czech Republic, Saints Cyril and Methodius
Czech Republic, Otto Wichtrle
Slovakia, Saints Cyril and Methodius
Vatican City, Saints Cyril and Methodius


STAMP-RELATED ITEMS BY YEAR

1971
Czechoslovakia, FDC illustration for Art issue

1976
Czechoslovakia, Mlada Fronta souvenir sheet

1978
Czechoslovakia, Mlada Fronta souvenir sheet

1984
Czechoslovakia, Mlada Fronta souvenir sheet

1985
Czechoslovakia, Mlada Fronta souvenir sheet

1986
Czechoslovakia, Mlada Fronta souvenir sheet

1987
Czechoslovakia, Mlada Fronta souvenir sheet

1989
Czechoslovakia, Mlada Fronta souvenir sheet
Czechoslovakia, FDC illustration for Art issue

1993
Slovakia, FDC illustration Trees (2 versions)

1994
Slovakia, FDC illustration Art

1995
Slovakia, FDC illustration Scout
Slovakia, FDC illustration Art

1996
Slovakia, FDC illustration Slovak Perspectives
Slovakia, FDC illustration Art

1997
Slovakia, FDC illustration Art

1998
Slovakia, FDC illustration Slovak insurrection
Slovakia, FDC illustration Art

2001
Slovakia, FDC illustration Costumes (2 types)
Slovakia, FDC illustration Agricultural institute

2002
Slovakia, FDC illustration Gymnasiums (2 types)

2008
Slovakia, FDC illustration Karol Plicka

2013
Slovakia, FDC illustration Saints

OTHER WORK

1970
Czechoslovakia, 20k banknote P92 (1)
Czechoslovakia, 500k banknote P93 (1)

1985
Czechoslovakia, 20k banknote P95 (1)
Czechoslovakia, 100 korun banknote P97 (1)
Czechoslovakia, 1000 korun banknote P98 (1)

1993
Czech Republic, 50k banknote P4 (1)
Czech Republic, 100k banknote P5 (1)
Czech Republic, 200k banknote P6 (1)
Czech Republic, 500 korun banknote P7 (1)
Czech Republic, 1000k banknote P8 (1)
Czech Republic, 5000 korun banknote P9 (1)

1994
Czech Republic, 20 korun banknote P10 (1)
Czech Republic, 2000 korun banknote P16 (1)

AWARDS

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

1974 - Hero and Leander tapestry
1975 - Morstadt's Prague 1828
1983 - Brozik's Prague
1985 - Hals' Jasper Schade van Westrum
1986 - Skreta's Maria Maximiliana of Sternberk
1989 - Dürer's Festival of Rose Garlands
1990 - Mucha's Slovene in his Homeland

Notes:
(1) Papirovaplatidla website

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