Born on February 21, 1909, Hans, who still works in his studio daily, lives in Lucerne with his second wife Doris Kessler who turns 90 this year.
He is known for his figurative motifs, such as horses and doves, and has created artworks for organisations including the UN, the Swiss government, the Red Cross and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. Last year he created the colour scheme for a new aeroplane for Pilatus.
I have posted a few of his comments from interviews published in Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger and Blick on Saturday (forgive my few translation discrepancies)
When asked how he viewed the concept and development of age when he was 20, he said he had “always instinctively avoided excess – smoking and boozing were far from my thoughts when I was young. I was much more focused on competition with other young people – artistically but also concerning sport. In those days movement was my passion. It still is – as a painter and observer.
“One of my most important realisations is that personality is expressed through movement, that every movement hides a variety of stories.” He points to footprints in the snow in his garden. “They bear witness to the movement of a person. Looking at them closely, you can learn a lot about the person who made them. In addition they tell stories: why are the footprints there today? Why are they there and not further over? What is their relationship with the neighbouring houses?”
“Every form of immigration is a renewal, it brings movement into the country. Trying to stop this I think is wrong.”
“...we are part of the natural cycle, we can develop and change through thoughts, words, pictures. Everyone has to decide whether he is real or fake in his heart itself. There is good in people and in a society that must always evolve. It starts with each individual who is willing to change, and it comes to the social and economic realities that we must rethink and build anew. So away with the boundaries in your head! We need dialogue, and to further accommodate ourselves to each other. Only in this way we can change the world again and again.”
When asked whether time still had a meaning for him, Erni replied that he didn’t divide his time into days or weeks “but rather into drawings, which I start and finish”.
Erni's elder sister died last year aged 107. Coincidentally, Erni shares a birthday with Jeanne Calment, who had the longest lifespan ever recorded. She died in 1997 aged 122.
Erni is still a decade or so younger then the oldest person alive today which is Japanese lady Misao Okawa who will be 117 on 5th March.