Saturday, 11 February 2017

BIOGRAPHY: Piotr Naszarkowski

It is well-nigh impossible to write about the life and work of Piotr Jerzy Naszarkowski (born 1952) without mentioning the name of Czeslaw Slania. For it is uncanny how similar both life and work of the two engravers are and how often they even intertwined.

Like Slania before him, Piotr Naszarkowski was born in Poland, in Warsaw in 1952. Working as a stage designer in the TV and theatre business, Naszarkowski studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, graduating in 1980. The communist regime in Poland soon put an end to his work, though, when Naszarkowski, with many other artists, quit his job to protest against the Polish regime’s martial law.

But in 1983, Naszarkowski managed to become employed at the Polish Banknote Printing House, after he had read about a vacancy there, just by chance. At the printing house he was taught to engrave stamps. His first stamp, for Poland, was issued in 1985. It was a single stamp depicting the cadet ship Iskra, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Polish Navy, printed in a combination of recess and lithography. It proved the start of a great career, for since then, Naszarkowski has engraved some 140 stamps for countries as far and wide as Japan, Sweden, the United States and Vatican City.

After having engraved a handful of beautiful stamps for Poland, such as a number of values of the annual Polish Rulers series, Naszarkowski moved to Sweden, in 1989, again just like Slania did. His Swedish philatelic debut followed in 1991, with the issue of the maps series, of which three values were engraved by Naszarkowski. The other stamps of the set were engraved by Slania, who took Naszarkowski under his wing. It is sometimes thought that it was Slania who enticed Naszarkowski to Sweden, but allegedly it was love for a woman that brought Piotr Naszarkowski to Sweden.

Naszarkowski blossomed under Slania’s tutelage and the partnership resulted in close cooperation and huge admiration between the two engravers. Naszarkowski’s regard for Slania was such that he finished off the 23 boxing cinderella stamps Slania once made with a 24th stamp, portraying Slania himself as ‘world champion stamp engravings’. 

Naszarkowski’s work is much admired and that goes especially for his many animal stamps issued in Sweden. The 1993 Wildlife set in particular, is admired for its quality of engraving. Naszarkowski manages to translate the cuteness of the animals wonderfully well into the engravings.


If possible, his 2009 set of winter anmimals even surpassed the 1993 set in quality. By now, Piotr had perfected his fauna styler, being able to capture the essence of any animal with as little fuss as possible. The fact that they're printed in monochrome really helps a lot and makes each and everyone a miniature work of art. 

Eventually, Naszarkowski was asked to step in more and more often, when Slania grew too frail to finish his work. The best example of this is the 2004 Elvis Presley stamp from Sweden, the engraving of which was started by Slania and finished by Naszarkowski, with both names being mentioned on the stamp.

Another engraving which changed hands from Slania to Naszarkowski was the iconic Greta Garbo stamp, a joint issue for Sweden and the USA, issued in 2005. Initially often thought to be one die used for both issues, the engraver has since acknowledged that two different engravings were made. It earned Naszarkowski two awards: ‘Most Beautiful Swedish Stamp of 2005’, and ‘Best Engraved Stamp of the European Union in 2005’. 

Naszarkowski likes to engrave portraits, enjoying the interpretation of the many shapes of the face. With the Garbo stamp, he was particularly pleased with the way he engraved the arch of her forehead, regarding it the most difficult part of the body to make it feel ‘alive’.

The Garbo stamps were numbers 99 and 100 for Naszarkowski, so he is a long while yet from breaking Slania’s record number of engraved stamps, but Naszarkowski’s future is bright and having moved to the intaglio heaven that is Scandinavia, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to emulate yet another Slania feat in the future. 

This article was first published in Stamp and Coin Mart of April 2013 and is reproduced with their kind permission.

4 comments:

  1. The intaglio heaven that was Scandinavia, unfortunately.

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    1. I know, isn't it just too sad. I will update Piotr's story at some stage to take into account the latest developments, for your comments made me realise that this piece, written in 2013, has an ending which is no longer relevant.

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  2. The 2005 Greta Garbo stamp is truly sumptuous! I find it interesting discovering which aspects of the stamps the engravers had the most trouble. Great bio!

    Cheers
    Matt

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    1. Thanks, Matt! Yes, those tidbits of information are like the cream in my porridge.
      :-)

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