BIOGRAPHY: Eugène Lacaque

Eugène Lacaque (1914 – 2005) was born in Lutterbach in the French province of the Alsace. He started his working life in the textile industry, which was where his father worked as well. There he learned how to engrave cylinders that were used to produce printed fabrics. During this period he first attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Mulhouse and subsequently in Paris. In 1937 he went back to Mulhouse and opened his own business specialising in engravings for the textile industry. His family business flourished and Lacaque received a number of awards for his artistic and industrial engravings.

Decades later, in 1967, a very fine portrait of Charles de Gaulle by his hand was brought to the attention of the French postal authorities and they invited him to engrave postage stamps. His first stamp was issued in 1968: the 160k value from the Beetles set issued in Laos. Lacaque’s work must have pleased the postal authorities for he remained in their employ. His first French stamp was issued in 1970. It is one of the values of the French Art set for that year, depicting the sculpture The Triumph of Flora by Carpeaux. It was received as a masterpiece. The year after saw the issue of the first philatelic tribute to Charles de Gaulle, with the two portrait stamps of this landmark set being engraved by Lacaque.

After this, there was no stopping him and in the thirty odd years that followed, Lacaque engraved some 600 stamps, mainly for France and her former Empire, but also for other European countries. Besides all these, he also engraved hundreds of philatelic documents and non-philatelic illustrations. His subject matter was very diverse, ranging from portraits of the great and good to reproductions of paintings and sculptures. Naturally, his homeland Alsace featured as well, with his 1971 Riquewihr gate-tower stamp, part of the annual Tourism series, and especially his 1974 stamp depicting Colmar, issued to promote the 47th Congress of French Philatelic Societies, highlighting the beauty of both the area and Lacaque’s engraving talent.

Much of his work has been praised and awarded with various accolades. In 1975, his French stamp commemorating the 80th anniversary of the People’s Theatre in Bussang was voted the most beautiful French stamp of the year. For his 1978 stamp, depicting the Head of Christ on a Mali stamp, Lacaque was awarded the Grand Prix of Philatelic Art of the African Nations and Madagascar. His 1981 set for Monaco, commemorating the 225th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, was voted the most beautiful music stamp in the world for that year. This must have pleased Prince Rainier of Monaco, who was especially enamoured with Lacaque and his work. But Lacaque, by now nicknamed ‘the man with golden fingers’, remained modest, always stating that he never worked for these honours but was inspired by the feeling of satisfaction he got when executing an engraving particularly well.

Lacaque had another nickname: ‘engraver of the impossible’. No better was this illustrated than in 1999, when he entered the Guinness Book of Records for being able to engrave 78 lines on a square millimetre! His fellow contestants managed no more than 35 to 40.

Lacaque did have a few regrets in his life. For one he regretted never having been able to compete for the Prix de Rome, the prestigious French art scholarship because, when trying, he no longer qualified because of his age.

His only philatelic regret was that he was never given the chance to engrave a Marianne definitive, the pinnacle of each French engraver’s ambitions. This is not for want of trying. He once entered a Marianne competition and, among 700 entries, his design was chosen for further consideration. But the engraving of the stamp was entrusted to somebody else who did not have the vast experience of Eugène Lacaque. This engraver failed to translate the beauty of the design into the engraving, so that the end result did not have a thing on the original design. Based upon the engraved proofs, the authorities eventually decided to opt for someone else’s design. In 1989, Lacaque engraved yet another Marianne essay, of a design by F. Bernal, but again this project was not adopted.

You will find Eugène Lacaque's database HERE.