Eric HERMES (Erich Hermès)
(1881 – 1971)
Eric Hermès was born on the 18th of January 1881 in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany. In 1888, his family moved to Heidelberg where they rented a house to the artist Guido Philipp Schmitt, the well-known portrait painter of the English aristocracy. Eric Hermès posed as a model and secretly began painting.
At the age of 15, his father decided to send Eric to Switzerland to start working, rather than stay in Germany and serve in the army.
Eric arrived in Lausanne in 1896 and followed an apprenticeship as a painter-decorator. This first training was crucial for his artistic career because it gave him a taste for monumental decorations, which became a very important part of his work.
On the 21st of June 1899, Eric Hermès moved to Geneva. He enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and followed the 5-year course, where he received several distinctions and scholarships. He is naturalised as a Swiss citizen in 1902.
From 1909, Hermès completed several paintings, sculptures and bas-reliefs for many public institutions in Geneva, his work being now acknowledged. In 1911 he had his first solo exhibition at the Musée Rath in Geneva.
During the First World War, Hermès and his family moved to the Canton of Valais, in the small village of Vérossaz. He travelled a lot around the canton and painted views of the mountain pastures and portraits of farmers. Back in Geneva, he continued to create decorations and stained glass windows, particularly at the Temple of Carouge and the Temple of the Madeleine.
From 1929, he gained a reputation as a poster artist with the creation of more than 20 tourist and advertising posters. In the canton of Valais, the "Les Caves Orsat" in Martigny and the cigar manufacturer "Von der Mühll" in Sion ordered him many posters. The first president of the Tourist Union of Valais (UVT), Pierre Darbellay, commissioned him a series of posters: Winter in Valais, Zermatt, Montana… The poster "Winter in Valais" became an international success. In 1942, Hermès was awarded in the competition of the best Swiss poster of the year, organised by the "Federal Department of Home Affairs" in Bern.
The simplicity of his designs, as well as the use of bright and solid colours led him to rediscover an old italien decorative technique: the "sgraffito", which he has used to decorate many more public buildings in Geneva.
The 21st of June 1971, Eric Hermès passed away in Geneva at the age of 90 years old.
Courtesy of Mr. Yves Hermès.