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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hans Erni

Hans' hands have a story to tell...and a very long one at that.
The medical profession, and indeed, the general public, have long ago come to a consensus the longevity is a genetic trait that runs in families. Unfortunately, it doesn't run in MY family. My blood relatives have a bad habit of dying around the age of seventy-two. I'm seventy-one. Not only does the longevity gene (or genes) tend to run in families, I've noted too (as have others) that longevity is also partial to certain ethnic groups. I'm mostly of English descent, which, alas, is not one of them. In any case, I'm relying upon the recent miracles of modern medicine to see me well into old age. I've had at least two health crises in which the medical and pharmaceutical professions, not to mention the insurance industry have seen me through to a reasonable facsimile of good health. I have plans to live to be at least a hundred years far so good.

Wall mural at the United Nations, 2010, Hans Enri.
Judging by the lifespan of many artists I've written about over the years, the Swiss (even the men) seem to have a pretty tight hold on living and breathing well into their eighties and nineties. Those of oriental descent do too. The Russians, Polish, Ukrainians, Turkish, central and southern African countries...not so much. Americans have an average lifespan of 77-80 years, depending upon gender and geography. The Swiss painter, illustrator, designer, and sculptor Hans Erni, is good case in point. Born in 1909, he died a couple years ago (2015) at the age of 106. His sister lived to be 107. Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, the third of eight siblings, their father was a nautical engineer.

Eighty-six out of 106 years captured in oils.
1964 (top) and 1969
Enri studied art at the Académie Julian in Paris and later in Berlin. He admired artist such as Picasso and Braque. In fact, Enri has often been called "The Swiss Picasso." He was the co-founder of the Swiss Group of Abstract Art "Allianz". Enri is also known for his having illustrated postage stamps, lithographs for the Swiss Red Cross, his participation on the Olympic Committee, and his social activism. His very first stamp designs for Switzerland were issued in 1964 as propaganda stamps--Pro Aqua in 1964, and Planet-arium in 1969. Hans Enri also design postage issues for Liechtenstein honoring such notables as Gia-cometti, Ramuz, Le Corbusier, Einstein, and Honeg-ger while commemorating such events as the 11th Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, and the 1972 20th Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. He also did the art for Swiss bank notes, during the 1940s, and although the notes were printed, they were never published, because a member of the State Council of Lucerne deemed Erni to be a Communist. However, Erni was never member of any political party.

Though not primarily a portrait artist, Enri was able to do noble justice to several would renown figures, most being
far from pretty faces. 
The Hans Erni Museum, Lucerne
On September 15th, 1979, the Hans Erni Museum opened in Lucerne (left), while that same year the artist designed the Swiss portrait series of per-sonalities that became "Swiss by Choice." There is no men-tion of Hans Erni doing these stamps, neither on the stamps nor in the Swiss Zumstein cat-alogue. In fact, they are only mentioned in Hans Erni's bio-graphy on the Internet. Dur-ing his career, Erni created about 300 posters and several murals (for the Red Cross, the IOC, the United Nations, ICAO, and many public and private enterprises). He illustrated about 200 books and created 90 Postage stamps and 25 medals.

Hans Enri's many sports posters are among his most popular works.
Named the 1988 Sport Artist of the Year, the renowned Swiss artist continued to awe the world with his inventive pieces even as he passes the centenary mark. Although the painter, sculptor and designer is best known for his illustrative postage stamps, lithographs, lively use of colors, and shapes, he was also a pioneer in the Abstract Expressionist Movement (below), displaying creativity, movement, and interpretation but not limited just to his favorite themes such as technology, sports, and nature.

One of Enri's better abstract pieces found in the Lucerne museum bearing his name.
Though technically a graphic
designer, Hans Enri's art moves
well beyond the limitations of
advertising and publishing.


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