Tribute to Hans Erni at age 105
Actually, I had planned to give you, my faithful readers, a deserved rest from my bubbling writings, at least until my next Whereabouts. Yet, listening to the Female’s latest story, I do feel the need to share this mind-blowing tale with you.
A story of Little Heideli, as the Female was called in her early years, was permanently stamped into her mind of remembrances:
Her beautiful mother, the Big Heidi (who was rather the opposite of big, but lovely, petite, and fragile) once modeled for a painter who would become one of the most famous Swiss artists and illustrators: Hans Erni.
Born in Lucerne, Switzerland on February 21, 1909, Hans Erni still spends most of his days working in his Atelier near the town where he grew up as one of eight children. He is a private, sincere man, married to his second wife of many, many years. A woman who loves, cares, and protects her husband, always at his side, sharing his strong feelings for love and World peace.
An early painting, Young Woman in the Year 1942 A.D., is considered one of his masterworks. Its interpretation is left to the viewer. Many see in it an iconic depiction of civilian predicament in a war-torn world, others feel the emotional and physical repression so many women had and still have to accept and endure.
The Female’s mother always recalled with much pride that she was chosen as the model for this oeuvre, telling little Heidy-Mignon over and over that she, too, is depicted in the painting; that the baby bump is Heideli, so very visible in the sad-looking woman sitting in her red cloak, surrounded by barbed wire.
Father/husband wasn’t as enthusiastic about the painter or his work. Around the time Hans Erni painted his wife, he had found new friends whose philosophy differed from Erni’s. While the artist found his perfect muses for his paintings in his new wife and child, the gregarious personality of the Female’s father turned bitter. Blaming anything and everything for his perceived misfortune. Every incident and friendship in his life turned into another air bubble.
After decades of ups and downs, sun worshipers as they where, the Female’s parents retired to Tenerife. They found a cheap apartment near the harbor of Los Christianos, where Godi’s ashes were put to rest in the Atlantic after he moved onto the rainbow bridge. Often friends had turned on him. One of the last vicious remarks the female heard from Roland, one of his self-proclaimed “best” friends, was one evening on the Canary Islands. “Godi was nothing but a vegetable near his end, not even being able to hold his playing cards,” he said. Little Heidy, by then a mature Mignon, was never so upset in her entire life. Not even when Goedeler had told her a hundred times how disappointed he was that his only offspring was a little girl.
A few years later, Stinkerli—how the Female and the Wolfman lovingly called Heidi senior after the fuzzy black and white animal—was found in her apartment by a neighbor who used to help her feed stray cats. It was too late to regain total health; Heidi had suffered a stroke many hours earlier. But she was saved and repatriated by Swiss Air Rescue during a mean winter storm. She passed away four years later at a retirement home near Lucerne. She had been a gifted pianist who never received credits despite her beauty and musical talents. And like her husband, she had always insisted that she did not want a memorial service.
My humans decided to hold a vigil in front of Erni’s famous painting at the Hans Erni Museum, which is a part of the Swiss Museum of Transportation. It caused quite a commotion! But old Heidi got her 15 minutes of fame. FINALLY.
The Female met Mr. and Mrs. Erni in 2002 while in town to look after her mother. Gracefully, the couple granted her a meeting at their gorgeous home, and Hans Erni invited the Female into his studio, answered all the questions about her early years, and letting her photograph his incredibly handsome face using the technique she uses for all her portrayals of The Male Human; black and white studies she captures with her camera. Haunting pictures, intense, honest, and showing how she sees the inhabitants of our planet: filled with beauty, not judging good, bad, big, small, swift, slow—you get the picture.
See also Basquiat’s more recent Hans Erni Died One Month After His 106th Birthday