Hans Erni, artist from Lucerne, has died, age 106 – a painter and sculptor who was still at work daily, to the end. In 2014 he created and donated a “Colombe de la jeunesse”, or youth dove metallic fountain, which was erected near the Farinet vines, the smallest officially registered vine parcel in the world, in Saillon, canton Valais.
Erni had already become much loved in the Valais wine world for his 2000 gift of a 30m2 metal peace dove that hangs against a cliff on the Farinet walkway, at the start to the gorge where Farinet, the Swiss Robin Hood, is reputed to have died. (You can read about Farinet in my book, Vineglorious! Switzerland’s Wondrous World of Vines, 2014)
Erni, born in February 1909, had such a long, rich and varied career as an artist that it’s difficult to pick out his best-known works and periods, but he was certainly famous for his peace doves. The artist’s official web site He offered a mural for the wall of the United Nations office in Geneva in 2009, that faces the plaza. The artist’s museum, next to the Transport Museum in Lucerne, houses a retrospective of his work, including work for the International Red Cross and the Olympic movement.
I met him in 2009, the year he celebrated his 100th birthday. He was as remarkable for his lucidity and clear ideas about politics and the world’s urgent need for peace as he was for the steady hand that showed a small group of us precisely how he made his doves.
He is survived by his wife Doris Erni, who managed the business side of the artist’s work, and their many offspring.