BIOGRAPHY: Rudolf Ciganik

Rudolf Ciganik (born 1961) was born in Handlova in what is now Slovakia. He studied metal and plastic engraving in Kremnica from 1976 to 1980 before moving on to the Academy of Fine Arts and Design at Bratislava where he refined his engraving techniques from 1984 to 1990. In a very short space of time, he managed to earn himself a reputation as a great engraver and, especially, as a book illustrator.

After Czechoslovakia split up in the early 1990s, the Slovakian postal authorities approached Rudolf Ciganik whether he would be interested in engraving stamps for them. Ciganik gladly came on board and embarked on a very successful career as a stamp engraver, working alongside big names such as BoudaHorniak and Cinovsky. His first engraved stamp for Slovakia was the 1993 Children’s book Illustrations issue. Soon Ciganik would be involved in engraving a stamp for the country’s first definitives as well.

Even with his early work, it can be clearly seen how skilled Ciganik is. Take for example the 1995 Europa issue, which is a design by Igor Rumanski of an allegory of freedom, drawn in many swirly lines. These stamps were printed in four colours from four separately engraved flat plates, each with only the lines for that particular colour, which is an incredibly skilled job. On the accompanying first day cover, Ciganik took the art form even further.

In 1996, Rudolf Ciganik got the chance to design his first stamp. Issued in February, Ciganik designed, and engraved, the 3k value of the Anniversaries set, marking the death centenary of the writer Jozef Ciger-Hronsky.

A couple of years into the lifespan of the Slovakian postal authorities they contemplated changing stamp production from almost entirely recess-printed to the much cheaper and quicker process of printing in lithography. Needless to say this caused uproar among the organisation’s stamp engravers, with Ciganik championing the engravers’ cause. He considers engraving not only a brilliant reproduction technique but also an important expression of contemporary art.

To convince the authorities of the beauty of recess-printed stamps, and the high regard they’re held in all over the world, Ciganik produced what is now the largest unissued recess-printed stamp in the world: the stamp measures 60 cm2! Thankfully, the pro-intaglio faction won the day and the postal authorities settled for a combined stamp programme printed in either recess or lithography.

Having engraved over a hundred stamps so far, Ciganik managed to have much of his work lauded with accolades. His 2003 portrait of Beethoven is often praised for its expressive character.

In 2000, Ciganik’s engraving of a stamp marking the History of Postal Law helped it being declared the most beautiful Slovakian stamp of the decade. He did have to share this accolade with the designer Dusan Kallay of course. The appreciation for this stamp was not just a national affair, or even a European one. The whole philatelic world agreed that this was an outstanding piece of work.

More appreciation followed for a stamp set of 2002. This time, Rudolf Ciganik could take sole credit for all the praise, as he both designed and engraved the two stamps. It was a twin issue with the People’s Republic of China. One value depicted Bojnice Castle in Slovakia, and the other the Handan Terraces in China. The design of the stamps is very much like his non-stamp work, with his many lines resulting in what at first sight may seem an overly busy work, but it still manages to create a very atmospheric image. It’s also very remarkable that he managed to combine those two culturally diverse subjects into one coherent design.

The stamp design was received very well in both countries. In fact, it was so highly thought of in China that a plaque consisting of a copper relief of the stamp design has since been put up at the Handan Terraces!

A repeat performance was held in 2007, for the joint issue with San Marino. Again we see the very distinct style of Ciganik working wonders on stamp format.

Since 2009, Ciganik has been involved in engraving many of the values that making up the country’s new definitive set, showcasing the cultural heritage of Slovakia. These are less flamboyant than his own work but still show off Ciganik’s engraving talent.

Another ‘signature stamp’ from his hand is the 2011 stamp depicting the great bustard. This stamp proves that Ciganik’s design and engraving styles works well with many subjects, varying from manmade structures to the natural world.

You can find Rudolf Ciganik's database HERE.