BIOGRAPHY: Hubert Woyty-Wimmer

In 1901, Hubert Woyty-Wimmer was simply born as Hubert Woyty in Bukovina in present-day Romania, which at the time was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was in cavalry of the the Imperial Army, so the young Hubert grew up among horses, as he would later quip. But his father died when Hubert was only seven, and when his mother remarried a Colonel Wimmer, who officially adopted his stepson, Hubert ended up with his double-barrelled surname.

Hubert received his initial education in the famous Monastery of Melk and showed artistic talents from an early age. And so, after the First World War had ended and the Empire had crumbled, Woyty-Wimmer moved to Vienna where he attended the School of Graphical Art. There, he entered the Class of Cossmann, the famous engraver who would train a number of engravers to become stamp engravers after the Second World War.

Woyty-Wimmer’s career as a graphic artist started out by creating bookplates and other commissioned engravings. But he had always hoped to be able to design and engrave stamps at some stage. In 1942, he got the opportunity to submit an engraved essay to the Austrian State Printing Works, but war intervened and Woyty-Wimmer had to serve in the army and put his career on hold.

Returning to a war-ravished Vienna in 1945, Woyty-Wimmer managed to join the Austrian State Printing Works, where he and his fellow Cossmann Class pupils tried to revive the badly damaged printing works. Their output during those first post-war years is of an immaculate beauty, especially when taking into account their working circumstances. There was a lack of heating, of materials and even of food, and all this with the traumatic experiences of war - the bombing, the street fighting - still fresh in their memories.

Woyty-Wimmer’s first engraved stamps appeared in 1946, when he worked on four of the ten values in the Austrian charity set for the reconstruction fund of the St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He had managed to get this commission after having won an engraving ‘competition’ to determine the best engravers for certain designs. His work, a rendering of a sculpture of the Madonna and child, was praised, and the authorities followed it up by immediately asking him to engrave the other sculpture stamps in the set as well. That is how he got to engrave the two sculpture stamps in the 1947 set with a surcharge for the National Art Exhibition Fund as well.

In the following years, Woyty-Wimmer would engrave a good number of stamps for Austria, being praised for his fine talent. His immaculate attention to detail becomes clear when one learns that he used to take a whole day to polish a metal plate, until it shimmered like a mirror, before commencing his engraving. He was also loved by the various stamp designers, who would often request that Woyty-Wimmer engrave their work.

In 1949, Woyty-Wimmer engraved a single stamp marking the birth millenary of the Bishop of Vorarlberg, St. Gebhard. The whole stamp was his engraving, including the lettering which would normally be etched in by someone else at the printing works. Together with the 5g value of the aforementioned St Stephens Cathedral set of 1946, depicting the tomb of Frederick III, this was the engraving Woyty-Wimmer was most proud of.

Among the better known of his stamps are the flowers stamps of the 1948 Anti-Tuberculosis Fund issue. In fact, this series proved so popular that Woyty-Wimmer engraved a full second set, but this was never issued, probably due to a lack of funds. Woyty-Wimmer’s bird stamps for the 1950-1953 are also among his better known stamps. Despite the mention in some catalogues, he did not engrave all the values (the 3s and 20s were engraved by others), because halfway during the creation of the set, Woyty-Wimmer moved to England. Intriguingly, he did engrave a number of values for that set which in the end have never been issued.

In 1950, Woyty-Wimmer would move to London, where he came to work for De La Rue (DLR). For them he mainly designed banknotes and other security documents, but he also designed and engraved a number of stamps. His move to DLR coincided with the introduction of postage stamps for the United Nations, and it was Woyty-Wimmer who designed and engraved a number of the early ones, especially those carrying his creation of the Flame of Freedom. As is usual with engravers at DLR, the scope of his work for them remains mainly shrouded in mystery but it is known that he engraved a number of the portrait stamps in the 1956 Royal Family issue of Greece, and the John Barry stamp of Ireland, issued in that same year.

In 1965, Woyty-Wimmer returned to Austria, but his later years were dogged by bitter family disputes and ill health, before he would pass away in 1972.

You will find Hubert Woyty-Wimmer's database HERE.