BIOGRAPHY: Ferdinand Lorber

Ferdinand Lorber (1883-1957) was born in Vienna, Austria, on November 16, 1883. He inherited his father’s talent for drawing.  From 1901 to 1907 he frequented the Academy of Fine Arts where he studied (historic) painting. During that time he also went to the Specialist School for Graphic Arts, where he was taught the art by the famous engraver William Unger. In fact, he was to be Unger’s final student before his retirement.

In 1909, Lorber established himself as an independent artist, creating portraits, etchings, book plates and paintings. He still travelled a lot, soaking up graphic art in several countries, such as the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. While his drawings found favour with the public in general, it is Lorber’s engravings which really set him apart from other artists. He even distinguished himself from fellow engravers in that he was one of the few who, incredibly, could produce engravings without having first drawn the design onto the plate.

From 1933 to 1949, Lorber was a teacher at the Vienne Graphic College. Around that same time, Lorber started working for the Austrian Printing Works. He was to become a prolific stamp engraver, who was active from the early 1930s to the late 1950s. At the time, he was probably the main engraver within the Austrian Printing Works. Even in his early years, Lorber managed to engrave some iconic stamps, especially for Liechtenstein. His portraits of Prince Francis I and Princess Elsa on the high values of the definitive set introduced in 1933 are still regarded as key items within Liechtenstein philately.

Popular, too, are the two Liechtenstein stamps issued in 1944, depicting portraits of Prince Francis Joseph II and Princess Georgina. When, a few years later, Lorber went to Buchs in neighbouring Switzerland, he was able to meet the royal pair. This eventually led to a re-issue of the 1944 stamp with amended portraits. These were issued in 1951. They were accompanied by yet another Lorber classic: the 5f with a view of Vaduz Castle. In fact, Liechtenstein has always had a high regard for Lorber’s work, and when their postal authorities attended the London 1961 philatelic show, they produced a souvenir sheet on which all but one stamp was engraved by Lorber. The recess-printed sheetlet was made making use of the original dies.

It’s not only the Liechtenstein royalty which were honoured by Lorber. He developed himself mainly as a portrait engraver on stamps, and the Austrian catalogue is filled to the brim with them. Quite a few of those were designed by the painter Wilhelm Dachauer, with the two men creating a match made in heaven where stamp production was concerned. The Karl Millöcker portrait on the 1949 Austrian stamp is a prime example of that. But Lorber also designed some of the portrait stamps he engraved such as the two portraits from the 1953 Austrian charity issue for the Vienna Evangelical School Rebuilding Fund.

Lorber’s working years coincided with the Second World War and its consequences for Austria. His best known stamp from the pre-war years is without a doubt that of Chancellor Dollfuss, issued in 1936 to mark the second anniversary of his assassination. Soon after, Austria would be annexed by the Germans and these stamps would be removed from the Austrian catalogue. The Printing Works was kept operative by the Germans.

For Lorber this meant he had to engrave stamps both for Germany and especially for the General Government of occupied Poland. Inevitably, a large part of this portfolio from these years consists of various Hitler stamps. Lorber engraved definitives and some of the special birthday issues. Of these, it is the 1942 issue which should be noted especially, for these were copper engravings rather than the usual steel engravings, with the stamps printed on a special hand press.

But there are also some beautiful charity sets to collect, such as the 1942 set marking the third anniversary of the German occupation and the 1944 Culture Funds set. Again, we find the Dachauer/Lorber pair working their magic by creating the most stunning portrait stamps. An added bonus is that the engraver’s signature was included in the sheet margins of all issues.

After the war, Lorber remained in the employ of the Austrian Printing Works until his final breath, with the Anton Wildgans stamp of 1957 being his last to be issued.

You will find Ferdinand Lorber's database HERE.