Hans Erni

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Hans Erni

Born(1909-02-21)February 21, 1909
Lucerne, Switzerland
Died March 21, 2015(2015-03-21) (aged 106)
Lucerne, Switzerland
Occupation Painter and sculptor

Hans Erni (February 21, 1909 – March 21, 2015) was a Swiss graphic designer, painter, illustrator, engraver and sculptor. Born in Lucerne, the third of eight siblings, to a cabin cruiser engineer, he studied art at the Académie Julian in Paris and later in Berlin, [1] and admired artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. He is known for having illustrated postage stamps, his lithographs for the Swiss Red Cross, his participation on the Olympic Committee as well as his activism. [2] His 1939 works and first major public success was a mural titled Switzerland: "Vacation Land of the People" was commissioned and displayed for the national exhibition in Zürich. The Hans Erni Museum, situated in the grounds of the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne, contains a large collection of artwork, he also designed ceramics and theatre costumes and sets. He did the art for Swiss bank notes, in the 1940s but, after the notes were already printed they were never published, because a member of the State Council of Lucerne criticized that Erni was deemed as a communist. However, Erni was never a member of any political party. In 2004, he was awarded the honorary citizenship of the city of Lucerne. On 10 January 2009 he received the SwissAward for lifetime accomplishment. In his career, he realized 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. [3] [4]


Hans Erni in April 2010
Circus Knie fountain located at the so-called Duftrosengarten in Rapperswil


Erni was commissioned by the Lucerne Museum Fine Arts to organize an exhibit about Pablo Picasso. The Spanish artist remained grateful for that opportunity to show his art in Switzerland. In 1936 Erni started to work with abstract art. From 1940 to 1945 he was a soldier in the Swiss army and was engaged as a camouflage painter because of his experience with large-size murals. In 1948, he was a competitor in the 1948 Summer Olympics' painting competitions. [5] Between 1950 and 1952 he participated to exhibitions in Latin America. However his participation in the Biennale of São Paulo was not authorized by Federal Councillor Philipp Etter. After a stay in Mauritania and Guinea he painted African topics. In 1960 he organized with Alfred Pauletto, Celestino Piatti, Hugo Wetli and Kurt Wirth an exhibition in Olten about graphic design and painting. He participated to the 1964 Documenta exhibition in Kassel, in the graphic design department.

On 15 September 1979 the Swiss Museum of Transport opened a large personal collection of Erni's works. He realized a 30 meter long mural for the Museum. Erni was very interested in sport and received the United States Sports Academy award of sport artist of the year in 1989. In 1993 his works were exhibited at the Pence Gallery in San Francisco.

He celebrated his 100th birthday in 2009. His sister, Maria Strebi-Erni (January 14, 1907 – January 29, 2014), died at the age of 107. [6] Erni died on March 21, 2015, aged 106. His first wife Gertrud Bohnert had died in a horse-riding accident, they had one daughter artist Simone Fornara Erni and with his second wife Doris, he had a son and two daughters [7]




  1. (de) Sikart.ch
  2. Hans Erni mit 106 Jahren gestorben
  3. Benezit Dictionary of Artists
  4. Grove Art Online
  5. Hans Erni. Sports Reference. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  6. "Maria Strebi-Erni, Luzern (1907 - 2014)". Traueranzeigen. January 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-02-25. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  7. "Swiss artist Hans Erni dies aged 106". The Guardian. 22 March 2015.