Sven Ewert (1895-1959) engraved most Swedish stamps during their classic heyday, and all Swedish engravers since have seen him as an inspiration.
Ewert started out as a student of the engraver Ferdinand Schirnböck, who was a teacher in Vienna, Austria from 1906 to 1916. Schirnböck had also engraved some Swedish stamps, notably the 1910 Gustav V definitives. After his thorough education, Ewert started working for the Swedish Post in 1923. At the time the Swedish Post seemed to have a preference for foreign engravers, so Ewert became the first 'home-grown' engraver to dominate the philatelic scene.
Although Ewert's first job involved engraving postmarks, his talents were soon noted and he could move on to stamp engraving. His first real stamp engraving dates from 1928. He has done some work before then, but that was more when existing designs were issued with new values. For example Ewert did some auxiliary engraving work on the Posthorn and Gustav V definitives of the mid 1920s. He also worked on a whole new die for the 10 öre violet Lion stamp of 1924.
Ewert's first 'proper' engraved stamp issue dates from 1928. Five values in a single design were issued to mark the Swedish king's 70th birthday. A non-mentioned surcharge was payable in aid of his Cancer Research Fund.
By then, Ewert was the only engraver in the employ of the Swedish Post. He would remain their sole engraver until the 1950s, when his pupil Arne Wallhorn started taking on official engraving work as well.
Ewert's portfolio for Sweden includes many well-known Swedish personalities, the engravings of whom benefit immensely from Ewert's accuracy. A beautiful example of his portrait work is the 1938 issue marking the 250th birth anniversary of the Swedish theologian and scientist Emanuel Swedenborg. Another of his portrait stamps which have received more than the usual praise, is that of the archaeologist Oscar Monterlius, on a stamp issue of 1943, marking the centenary of the man's birth. Here, Ewert managed to create a very soft and intimate portrait, resulting in a very noble portrait.
On the other side of the spectrum we find his engraving of the Small Arms definitives, introduced in Sweden in 1939. Many Swedes still regard this the most timeless and classy stamp ever issued in their country. In fact, it was so popular, that the series remained in circulation for many years after Ewert's death in 1959, which meant that a number of new values had to be engraved by other engravers.
One of Ewert's other iconic Swedish definitives is the series introduced in 1951, portraying the new king of Sweden: Gustav VI Adolf. It was not the easiest of engravings to execute. While his initial engraved die was deemed successful, the printers found it surprisingly hard to find colours which would not be detrimental to the engraving and the design as a whole.
After a short period, Ewert was asked to engrave a new die. It is easily distinguishable from the original die, because of the background engraving. The background of the original die consists of horizontal lines, whereas that of the new die consists of cross-hatched lines. Another easy giveaway is that on the new die, Ewert's initials have been included in the bottom-right corner.
However, this second die proved even less satisfactory. Because of all the changes, the portrait had lost its sculpture-like appearance. This resulted in very flat printings. This die was therefore only used for a couple of values, issued in 1957, and the printers once again asked for a new die.
Unfortunately for Ewert, he passed away while still working on that third die. The work was taken over by Czeslaw Slania who finished the third and final die for this series.
In 1937, Ewert engraved a test stamp which, together with that of Slania's test stamp, has become a well-known item in his portfolio, if only because they're so widely available to collectors in so many different guises. The engraving is that of a woman's head, based on an original 19th century engraving by J. Deininger. Ewert added his initials in the bottom corners, while the date 1937 refers to the year the Swedish post bought the Goebel printing press for which this test stamp was engraved.
The stamp would remain in use for quite some time and was even used for the following WIFAG printing press which the Swedes acquired in 1949. For that press, only coils and booklet formats were trialled, and not counter sheets.
Sven Ewert did not only engrave stamps for Sweden, he also engraved for Denmark. In fact, his final ever stamp engraving was for Denmark, the 1959 single design issue marking the 60th birthday of King Frederick IX. Ewert's first stamp for Denmark was issued in 1945; a set of three single-design stamps marking the 75th birthday of King Christian X.
The Danish stamp designer Viggo Bang, who had just burst onto the scene but would go on to dominate Danish stamp design during the 1950s, was very impressed with Ewert's work, especially his portrait engravings. Bang therefore recommended Ewert to the Danish postal authorities, when that 1945 set was being prepared.
It would be the start of a close and very successful collaboration between the two artists. One of their best known works is the 1948 Danish definitive design, portraying King Frederik IX. As with the Swedish definitives of 1951, though, a number of dies exist which show that the two worked constantly on improving the stamp.
The original type, which was only used on the 20 öre red of February 1948, can be identified because the left hand side of the king's face does not have an outline. The second type, which was only used for a few values, does show a clear outline on that side of the king's face. The third type, which was used for most values, including all values of 35 öre and up, shows differences in the tunic. Type II had a tunic made up of single lines, whereas on Type III double lines were used. If anything, this work shows how perfectionist Sven Ewert was; a trait he was known for even then.
Sven Ewert passed away on 11 August 1959.
You can find Sven Ewert's database HERE.