HARTZ, Samuel Louis

Samuel Louis (Sem) Hartz (1912-1995), born in the Netherlands, is still considered one of the Netherlands’ most prolific stamp engravers. Being taught the art of engraving by another stamp engraver, J.J. Aarts, Hartz soon became acquainted with Enschedé and was employed by the printers in 1936, at the age of 24. His first consignment was to design and engrave the 1½c and 12½c values for the 1936 Cultural and Social Relief Fund issue. 

Being employed by Enschedé, Hartz soon came to work on stamp issues for other countries as well. Among those Luxembourg featured quite often, with the 1939 ten stamp “Centenary of Independence” set being a favoured example, but Surinam and Belgian Congo were among the other countries he produced for. And so, at the outbreak of World War Two, Sem Hartz’s portfolio already consisted of nearly forty stamp designs.

But, Hartz being Jewish, the war years put an end to his prolific output and he eventually even had to go into hiding in 1942. When the war was over, however, Hartz re-emerged as busy as ever and continued to churn out issue after issue, to the great joy of Enschedé, although they did sometimes despair of Hartz’s knack to always overrun his deadlines.

For the Netherlands some of his best post-war work includes the high values for the definitive sets for Wilhelmina (1946) and all the definitive sets for Queen Juliana, again with the high values of most of these being engraved, recess-printed stamps.

Hartz’s speciality was the engraving of portraits, making the Dutch definitives of his hand still a very popular area to collect. But his aforementioned 1939 centenary issue for Luxembourg and the '20th Anniversary of Reign and Royal Marriage' issue in that same year, also for Luxembourg, are also perfect examples, showing his gift for engraving portraits to the full.

Sem Hartz was rather opinionated when it came to his art. Although not an architecture engraver as such, he was quick to criticise other engravers’ work as soulless. The 1960s architecture set of West Germany, for example, he thought to be stiff and mechanic, with lines that may just as well have run in any other way. With his own few architecture stamps, the 1938 Echternach Abbey set for Luxembourg being a prime example, he tried to lure people into the building as it were, with the engraving of minute details making the whole design much more artistic and intriguing.

Hartz also was not very fond of stamp design committees and in general wished to work with as vague a remit as possible. Especially the tradition of filling up backgrounds of portrait stamps with cross hatchings was something he abhorred. He much more favoured a style whereby the portrait itself stood out by leaving the background more or less blank. His Dutch Princesses stamps of 1946 and the 1939 Royal Marriage set for Luxembourg show what he could do if left to his own devices.

Sem Hartz not only worked on stamps, but became interested in lettertypes as well. His first lettertype design, “Emergo” appeared in 1949, but it was his “Juliana” lettertype of 1958 which became a well-known and often used lettertype. And as if he didn’t do enough, he also engraved bank notes and taught future stamp designers at in-house training facilities of the Dutch Post. He also had a teaching post in Antwerp, where he taught graphic design.

Hartz retired in 1977, after he found that increasingly his view on stamp design deviated from that of those in charge at the Dutch Post. He did however remain fond of his employer Enschedé and remained a frequent and welcome visitor after his retirement.

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

Netherlands, Relief Fund

Netherlands, Relief fund

Luxembourg, Echternach Abbey
Netherlands, Relief Fund

Luxembourg, Centenary of Independence
Luxembourg, Reign and Royal Marriage
Netherlands, Relief fund

Netherlands, Relief fund
Surinam, Social Welfare Fund (1)

Netherlands, Relief fund

Netherlands, Naval heroes 40c

Netherlands, Queen Wilhelmina definitives
Netherlands, Child Welfare

Belgian Congo, Abolition of slavery (1)
Curaçao, Definitives
Luxembourg, Echternach Abbey
Netherlands, Relief fund

Curaçao, Definitive
Curaçao, Golden jubilee
Netherlands, Definitives
Netherlands, Golden jubilee
Surinam, Golden Jubilee

Netherlands, Queen Juliana definitives

Luxembourg, War orphans Fund

United Nations, Definitives, Clasped hands design

Luxembourg, Echternach Abbey (1)
Luxembourg, Pierre d'Aspelt

Luxembourg, Fencing championships
Netherlands, Queen Juliana definitives

Luxembourg, United Nations (1)

Luxembourg, Baden-Powell

Luxembourg, St Willibrord

Luxembourg, Schuman plan

Luxembourg, Tourism

Luxembourg, Human rights convention
Zaïre, Red cross centenary

Tunisia, National day (1)

Luxembourg, Our Lady of Luxembourg

Netherlands, Erasmus


Netherlands, Fl 25 banknote

(1) Handboek Postwaarden Nederland