BIOGRAPHY: Henry Cheffer

Henry Lucien Cheffer was born in Paris, France on 30 December 1880. Having studied at the School of Fine Arts where he was a pupil of Leon Bonnat, Henry won the Prix de Rome twice, in 1904 and 1906. That year he also won the Premier Prix Stigmann.

In 1911 he engraved his first postage stamp, for Iran. Many more consignments for foreign countries followed, including such the iconic 1919 King Albert with Tin Hat definitives of Belgium, and the 1921 portrait definitives of Grand Duchess Charlotte for Luxembourg.

In 1923, Henry Cheffer was asked to engrave the portrait of Queen Wilhelmina for the Jubilee stamps for the Dutch territories. In the Netherlands, the Dutch organisation for artists (VANK) kicked up a fuss for not hiring a Dutch artist to do the engravings. But Cheffer used to work regularly for Enschedé as an engraver of banknotes and stamps for, among other countries, Belgium and Luxembourg, so he was a logical choice.

It was not until 1929 that he started engraving stamps for France and its territories. Among those are Andorra, Algeria, Morocco and the Saar.

In 1930, Cheffer was asked to engrave the die for the Dutch Rembrandt stamps. Although he was given a design to work from, he was also told he would have a free hand in creating his die. The end result was not to the authorities' liking as they thought Cheffer had tidied up the original design far too much. The vague remit given to Cheffer was probably debit to this, as he had thought the design was just a preliminary sketch for him to elaborate on. He did offer to try and amend his original die but this proved difficult. Cheffer indicated he would be willing to make a new die, but only after more thorough discussions with the printers and the designer. This offer, however, was not made use of and the assignment went instead to another engraver, Hendrik Seegers.

During the war years, Cheffer engraved two designs for the annual stamp show non-postal labels which were issued with a surcharge for various charity projects. For the Paris 1943 sheet, issued in 1942 with surcharges in aid of the ‘intellectuals’, Cheffer engraved a scene depicting the author Jean Jacques Rousseau’s chamber. The following year, for the Paris  1944 sheetlet in aid of musicians, he engraved a scene from the French composer Chabrier’s opera Gwendoline.

Furthermore, Cheffer engraved non-postal labels of a family scene without the father, sold in aid of war victims from the French Post.

In 1949, Cheffer engraved a test stamp for the Chambon machines portraying Estienne. The stamp had been designed by Pierre Gandon.

In 1954, Cheffer tried to get his Marianne chosen but that failed. However, his design was finally chosen after his death, in 1967. The stamp would be engraved by Claude Durrens but would carry Henry’s name: Marianne de Cheffer.

Henry Cheffer passed away in Paris, France on 3 May 1957.

You will find Henry Cheffer's database HERE.

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