During the war, philatelic exhibitions were held annually in Paris, with souvenir sheets being printed which would be sold with a surcharge for suffering artists. The engraved labels were to be a showcase of both the experienced engravers of the French Post, and the up and coming young engravers who had yet to prove their worth. Pierre Gandon submitted engravings for all three sheets, issued in 1941, 1942 and 1943. Curiously, the actual years mentioned on the labels are 1942, 1943 and 1944, which was probably done because the stamp shows took place at the end of the year.
Even as recently as 2015, Gandon’s Marianne was reissued in a miniature sheet marking the 70th anniversary of liberation, as a 1 euro value. If for nothing else, the issue is interesting because it shows the difference between the time-honoured printing method making use of transfer rollers, and the more modern approach of scanning the hand-made engraving into a computer which then directs a laser to create the printing cylinder.
The mythological airmail stamps were among the very first to be printed in special ‘deluxe’ sheetlets which had the four designs in one proof sheet. These sheets replaced the imperforate versions of stamps which up to then would be printed in small quantities to be handed out to a number of officials and other VIPs. The mythology sheet is very rare indeed with only 13 copies printed.
The first – and arguably the most spectacular – stamp, both designed and engraved by him, for which Gandon won the Grand Prix de l’Art Philatélique, was one for French Polynesia, or the French Oceanic Settlements, as it was called back in 1955. The beautifully engraved image of the young Bora Bora girl was based on a dancing girl named Tumata Teutau, who Gandon noticed in a 1950s film.
Other notable winners were the 1961 French stamp depicting Cézanne’s Card Players and the 1964 stamp depicting the tapestry The Lady with the Unicorn. They formed part of a new annual series of Art stamps, inaugurated in 1961, for which Gandon would engrave many stamps in the following two decades.
Gandon’s 1959 Stamp Day stamp, depicting a Douglas DC-3 making a night-landing, won him the Grand Prix de l’Europe. The stamp would be reissued in 1964, with the extra inscription ‘25e anniversaire’ as it marked the 25th anniversary of the French Night Airmail Service. As he had served in the French Air Force during World War One, Gandon took pleasure in engraving the many stamps for France and other countries featuring various aeroplanes.
Best known are probably his stamps for the 1960 French Nature Protection set; a set of four bird stamps which he all designed and of which he engraved three, the fourth one with the lapwings being engraved by Charles Mazelin. These stamps are extra special because they are the first ones printed with the new TD-6 press procured by the French printers. These could print six different colours, for which two engraved dies were needed, each being capable of printing three colours. The puffin stamp was the very first stamp rolling off that press.