BIOGRAPHY: Arne Wallhorn

"An engraved portrait should not be of a face, but of a person..."

In 1945, a young Arne Wallhorn (1921-1994) saw a tribute article in his daily newspaper on the famous Swedish stamp engraver Sven Ewert, marking his fiftieth birthday. In the article mention was made that Ewert was on the lookout for a pupil.

Wallhorn had been trained at the Technical School, and a subsequent stint at the Art Academy where he specialised in engraving. In 1943, he had found a job as a designer and metal engraver at Sporrong & Co in Stockholm. But after having read the Ewert article, Wallhorn immediately contacted the Swedish Post, was invited to show some examples of his work and duly got the position as apprentice to Ewert, which started in 1946.

Then things ground to a halt. During a period of some seven years, Wallhorn was taught all the intricacies of stamp engraving by Ewert, whose teaching method was as intricate as the work he produced. It was not until 1953 that Wallhorn was finally allowed to engrave his first postage stamp: an ice hockey player on a value from a set of four marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Swedish Athletic Association.

It was the beginning of a great career, in which Wallhorn showed to be a worthy colleague and later successor of Ewert. His portrait stamp of 1962, for example, marking King Gustav VI Adolf’s eightieth birthday, is proof that Wallhorn’s technique had become just as meticulous as Ewert’s work was. That engraving, by the way, is also rather special because at the time it was ‘wordiest’ engraving in the Swedish catalogue, with no less than 209 letters fitted into the available space, and they’re all legible! A similar stamp was engraved by Wallhorn in 1976. Again, we have magnificent portrait, this time of the newspaper editor Torgny Segerstedt, set against a background of words, this time comprising a newspaper, and once again it is all legible.

Wallhorn may have inherited Ewert’s work ethic, he has given it his own unique style, again especially in portraits. They have been described as ‘quiet poetry’. He himself has said that he always tried to not only recreate the face, but interpret a person’s soul as well.

Great examples of his portrait engraving skills can be seen in his annual Nobel Prize Winners stamps, a series for which he engraved stamps from 1961 to 1981. His 1970 stamp, portraying the chemist Otto Wallach and the physicist Johannes van der Waals, especially, has been praised, as has his Marie Curie portrait from the 1971 set. An earlier portrait engraving of a Nobel Prize Winner, though not part of that series, appeared in 1959 and was one of Wallhorn’s first portraits: it was that of the chemist Svante Arrhenius. It was a first sign of Wallhorn’s expertise in engraving portraits.

Although well-known for his portraits, Wallhorn was also more than capable of engraving other subjects. His 1973 ‘Going to Church in Mora’ stamp and his 1972 Roe Deer definitive are good examples of his work. His own favourites can also not really be classed as portrait stamps: he liked his engraving of the Hugo Alfvén bust for the 1972 Swedish stamp that was part of an Anniversaries set (it marked the birth centenary of the composer), and another of Wallhorn's favourites was the 4k value from the 1983 set promoting the Stockholmia 86 international stamp show. The set was a 'stamp on stamp' issue, and the 4k included an 1891 definitive with a portrait of Oscar II.

You will find Arne Wallhorn's database HERE.