BIOGRAPHY: Hans Ranzoni Jr

Hans Ranzoni, Sr. was a well-known landscape painter in Austria, and President of the Society of Artists in Vienna. It would therefore seem to be almost inevitable that his son, Hans Ranzoni, Jr. (1896-1991), or Hans Ranzoni the Younger, as he became known, would follow in his father’s artistic footsteps. But for a long time it seemed not to pan out that way.

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1896, of Italian descent, Ranzoni only started his education proper after having served as a soldier in the First World War. Dissuaded by his father from an artistic career, Ranzoni the Younger was sent to the Technical University in Vienna. But his talent was not to be denied and within a few years he had had enough of making soulless objects, quit his technical education and enrolled at the Vienna Art College. This was soon followed up by a three-year stint at the Graphische Lehr- und  Versuchsanstalt where he was taught copper engraving by the then most famous engraver of Austria, Alfred Cossmann.

These three years spent there surely paid off, for Ranzoni would soon gain an international reputation for his abilities to capture the finest details in his engravings. His unique craftsmanship was based upon his efforts to try and confine himself to clear, free lines, without any superfluous or bombastic effects. His reputation was such that Ranzoni was later able to return to his school to succeed his former master Cossmann as head of the engraving class, a position Ranzoni would hold until his retirement in 1961.

Outwith his work at the Graphische Lehr- und  Versuchsanstalt, Ranzoni would become especially known for his engraved book plates and his work on Austrian stamps, both as designer and engraver. The first stamps Ranzoni would design and engrave for the State printing Works in Vienna were the 1934 Welfare Fund stamps, a set which portrayed Austrian architects. This was soon followed by another stamp in 1935, for Mothers’ Day, again both designed and engraved by Ranzoni.

Then it remained quiet for a while on the stamp front, with his next two projects only being realised after Austria had been absorbed into the German Reich, though Ranzoni still remained in employ at the Austrian State Printing Works. Both issues very much had an Austrian theme, with his 1943 set marking the Grand Prix in Vienna and his 1941 issue marking the 150th anniversary of Mozart’s death. This latter one is arguably his most famous stamp.  

But it was after the Second World War that Ranzoni’s star really came to shine. The bulk of his portfolio dates from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. This most prolific period in his career started off with the honour of being asked to design and part engrave (most values were printed in typography) Austria’s first post-war definitives, depicting the New National Arms of Austria.

With Austria still relying heavily on recess-printing for its stamps, Ranzoni got the chance to work on dozens more stamp issues in the following decades. Quite a few were completely by his hand, others were made in cooperation with other artists, some of them even including his own wife Edith! The 1949 Child Welfare Fund issue is a prime example of the success of this husband and wife partnership. 

Another highlight among his stamp oeuvre is the top value of the 1948 Provincial Costumes definitive set, a beautifully engraved portrait of a lady wearing an 1850s Viennese costume. His 1965 stamp, recreating an original Danubian engraving by Altdorfer, was turned into a ‘Maschinprobe’ stamp or trial stamp, used by the state printers to perform trial runs on their presses.

In his later days, Ranzoni also got to work on several stamp issues for Liechtenstein, of which the 1960 set consisting of portraits of the royal family of Liechtenstein stands out. When Liechtenstein attended the London 1961 stamp show, they produced a souvenir sheet in various colours, which included another of Ranzoni’s splendid portrait stamps: the 1949 stamp portraying Prince Johann Adam I, part of a set marking the 250th anniversary of the acquisition of the Domain of Schellenberg.

You will find Hans Ranzoni's database HERE.