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Reprinted From APRIL 11, 2005 LINN'S STAMP NEWS, Page #3

Czeslaw Slania was artist as well as engraver Open Album By Michael Schreiber Artist and engraver Czeslaw Slania, whose obituary appears on the facing page, needed no public relations apparatus. His enormous output of engraved postage stamps spread the word of his talent far and wide, and he died the most famous stamp engraver of all time. The few postal adminstrations that employed him also did their best to promote both his talent and their wisdom in hiring him. Slania's talent in copying was evident as early as grade school, when he sometimes drew his own lunch vouchers, perfect duplicates of the real thing. He could paint a stunning copy of a United States $1 bill, a ticket to a sporting event or an entire envelope, including its postage stamp.

Figure 1. Slania painted the watercolor
of the bird that is shown on this Swedish 30-ore Bullfinch stamp of 1970. The multicolor stamp was printed by gravure, not intaglio.

Figure 2. Denmark's 100-ore Road Safety stamp, issued in 1977. Slania engraved it.

Throughout his career with postage stamps, Slania engraved portraits, monuments, buildings, cityscapes, landscapes, seascapes, stamps on stamps, paintings of Old Masters, ships, people at work and play, a few children's designs, animals, and numerous abstract designs, especially on stamps of Denmark.

His early work includes some rather mundane stamps.

Figure 1 shows one of them, Sweden's 30-ore Bullfinch stamp, issued in 1970 as part of a set of four that repeated the style of a similar set issued in 1968. It is a booklet stamp with one straightedge.

Slania was the illustrator for the 1970 set (Scott 873- 77). He painted watercolors that were reproduced by the multicylinder gravure process, one cylinder for each ink. The stamps are not based on line engravings.

In 1977, Denmark issued a 100-ore stamp to note the Road Safety Travel Act (Scott 599), shown in Figure 2.

For this stamp, Slania engraved an abstract design of another artist. It shows an automobile tire and ghostly outlines of a fallen bicycle and its rider.

The basic line work of this stamp is nothing like the exquisitely detailed engraving of landscapes, buildings, animals and portraits that is Slania's hallmark.

Figure 3. This 2.70-krona Swedish stamp issued in 1983 was a Slania favorite. It was printed in intaglio black and multicolor gravure.

Figure 4. Detail of the engraved black on the 2.70kr stamp pictured in Figure 3.

Figure 3 pictures a stamp from one of Slania's favorite issues, Sweden's 1983 Music in Sweden sheet of five, the 2.70-krona Violinist Hins Anders stamp. It is a multicolor stamp printed by line engraving for the black and gravure dots for the color.

Figure 4 pictures a detail of the black engraving showing the pegs and the scroll of the violin. This detail is taken from a book published by Count Lennart Bernadotte, a Swedish royal who became a good friend of Slania.

The book, titled Lennart Bernadotte Presents Czeslaw Slania's Life's Work, was published circa 1987, about 18 years too early for Slania but about right for the count. He was 78 at the time.

Bernadotte died Dec. 21, 2004, at age 95, on his family's 96-acre island in Lake Constance (Germany), called Mainau. Mainau has a rare climate for a location north of the Alps, and while living there the count indulged his interests in horticulture and ecology. He also studied filmmaking and photography, and his tribute book for Slania is one result. It includes many large transparencies of Slaniaengraved stamps that show the details of his beautiful lines.

My favorite Slania stamps are the engraved waterscapes and landscapes printed in one color that show canals and buildings in extreme detail and with photographic clarity.

Figure 5. Sweden showed off Slania's talent for reproducing landscapes with large-format stamps, such as this 1.15kr Tourist Steamer Juno stamp issued in 1979. It is printed in violet blue and is based on a photograph by A. Svensson.

Figure 6. Slania's sketch for a stamplike label picturing Lennart Bernadotte, author and publisher of Lennart Bernadotte Presents Czeslaw Slania's Life's Work.

Figure 5 pictures one such stamp, the 1.15kr violet-blue Tourist Steamer Juno stamp, issued in 1979 as part of a booklet pane of six. It is based on a photo by A. Svensson. The pane includes one other stamp in the same size and four other smaller ones, all different designs in different colors (Scott 1285-90).

A Slania sketch of Bernadotte is pictured in Figure 6, taken from the tribute book. The sketch is not signed, but it is inscribed "Krakow (Poland) Dec. 24, 1987."

Slania usually drew or painted sketches, sometimes very detailed ones, sometimes not (as with the Bernadotte sketch), using them as large models for his steel engravings. He would prop the model on his work table and work from it by eye. The tribute book shows a dozen such pictures of Slania at work, including a few of him working in only his shorts.

There are three Czeslaw Slania study groups. To contact the Czeslaw Slania Study Group USA, write to Gene Wolosiewicz, Box 1382, Milwaukee, WI 53201. Its newsletter is titled Close-Up. The membership fee is $7 for addresses in the United States, Canada and Mexico. For others, it is $12 for airmail or $9 for surface mail.

There's more Slania in this issue. In the Stamp Market Tips column, David Kols recommends the United Nations- New York 60th Anniversary souvenir sheet issued this year in January and now sold out. You'll find the column inside the back cover, on page 62, after the classified ads.

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