Swiss graphic designer and artist Hans Erni, best known for his elaborate postage stamp illustrations and Cubist-influenced frescoes, died Saturday at age 106, the Guardian reports.
Erni was born in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1909, and went on to study art in Paris and Berlin. His paintings, sculptures, lithographs, engravings, etchings and ceramics were heavily influenced by Pablo Picasso and George Braque’s cubism. He also designed costumes and sets for the theater. In 1939, Erni moved away from abstraction when one of his most famous works, the mural “Switzerland, Holiday Land of the People,” was commissioned for the Zurich National Exhibition.
Erni designed more than 90 postage stamps for the UN and Switzerland, many of which contained peace dove motifs–he was as known for his political activism as for his art. “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.
The colorful banknotes Erni designed for Switzerland in 1938 were never printed because he’d been deemed a Marxist. Official commissions declined, and Erni described being “boycotted, defamed, spied on, and banned from cultural life as a national traitor” for the next 20 years.
But he remained a prolific artist throughout the Cold War and into old age–he created a series of paintings for the International Olympic Committee in his 80s, and painted a fresco at a church in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the south of France, near his vacation home.
[via The Guardian]