The Stamp Gallery of Czech and Slovak Graphic Art

After Alfons Mucha, Max Švabinský is surely one of the greatest Czech artists of the 20th century. He was born on September 17, 1873 in Kroměříž, a small town in South Moravia. There he attended a German school, and then enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. From 1910 on, he was a professor of arts at various art schools. His art work primarily consists of drawings in pencil, charcoal and pen & ink, but he also produced a great deal of commercial graphic or applied art and book illustrations. From this large body of work, his stamp designs in particular stand out.

His first design for the Czechoslovak postal authorities was the fourth issue of the new state, released on March 3, 1920. Engraved by Eduard Karel, it is a commemorative stamp noting the 70th birthday of the nation's founder and first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. The best known of Švabinský's stamp designs is another portrait of Masaryk, first engraved by Karl Wolf and later changed in many ways by Jaroslav Goldschmied. It was the central image of the definitive issues of Czechoslovakia from 1923 until 1927. According to the Czech Trojan Catalogue, the sum of all the quantities issued of all the varieties of this design is more than 2.5 billion items, making it one of the most recognized and wide-spread stamps of Czechoslovakia.

Švabinský is especially known for his numerous portraits of famous persons, many of which can be seen on his stamps. Of his more than 70 stamp designs, more than two thirds are portraits. A look at a list of subjects depicted on Švabinský's stamps gives you the feeling that you are viewing a "Who's Who" of Czechoslovak history, art and science.

Just a few weeks before his death, a series of nine butterfly thematics were issued on November 27, 1961. For me, these are the most beautiful of all Švabinský's stamps. These stamps were created in a tight cooperation with the famous engraver Jindra Schmidt and you can see one of these stamps on the Schmidt pages in the German part of this gallery.

During his lifetime, the Czechoslovak postal authorities issued a commemorative stamp on his 85th birthday in 1958 depicting his work "Básník a musa" (Poet and Muse). On the first anniversary of his death, a stamp showing his self portrait (see above) was issued. In addition, a number of his other works appeared on later stamps: on November 27, 1972 the picture "Kytice" (Bouquet of Flowers, see the previous page) and on the 100th anniversary of his birth (September 17, 1973), a series with five additional pictures:

  • Jan Křtitel (John the Baptist)
  • Srpnové poledne (August Afternoon)
  • Splynutí duší (High Time of Feelings)
  • Rajská sonáta (Paradise Sonate)
  • Poslední soud (The Late Court)

  • Max Švabinský lived and worked for a great part of his life in his weekend house in the small village of Kozlov near Česká Třebová. He died on February 10, 1962 in Prague, highly honored with national awards and titles and officially recognized as a national artist of Czechoslovakia.