Mar 22, 2015 10:38 AM
Prolific Swiss artist Hans Erni dies at 106
The Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) Swiss artist Hans Erni, whose prolific work ranged from tiny postage stamps to enormous frescoes, has died, his daughter said Sunday. He was 106.
Erni's daughter, artist Simone Fornara-Erni, announced on her Facebook page that he "passed away peacefully" on Saturday.
Erni produced hundreds of paintings, sculptures, lithographs, engravings, etchings and ceramics. He kept up a punishing work schedule deep into old age, completing a series of paintings for the International Olympic Committee in his 80s and painting a fresco at a church in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in southern France, where he had a vacation home.
Born Feb. 21, 1909, in Lucerne, Erni studied art in Paris and Berlin. He was strongly influenced in his early days by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, but his abstract era ended with his first public success, a huge mural titled "Switzerland, Vacation Land of the People" commissioned for the 1939 national exhibition in Zurich.
Many other official commissions followed though Erni's communist sympathies then got him into trouble, and he later said that for 20 years he was "boycotted, defamed, spied on, and banned from cultural life as a national traitor." Swiss bank notes he designed in the 1940s weren't printed because he was deemed a Marxist.
However, the crushing of Hungary's 1956 uprising against communist rule was an ideological turning point for him.
"Tanks destroyed my vision of life," he declared at the time.
Erni created more than 90 stamp designs for Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the United Nations.
"I am convinced that it is possible to express something even on the smallest space supposing that you have something to say," he once wrote. He also designed theater costumes and sets, as well as ceramics.
Erni's first wife, artist Gertrud Bohnert, died in a horse-riding accident. Their daughter, Simone, is herself a prominent artist. With his second wife, Doris, he had a son and two daughters, one of whom died of leukemia.