September 28, 1893
Emile lahner was born in 1893 in the village of Nagy-Berenza in the Carpathia Mountains of Hungary.
Lahner's mother died in childbirth and he became an orphan at the age of seven when his father was killed in an accident. Placed in the care of a bishop guardian, he was sent to boarding school to begin his training as an engineer.
This choice of a career was his guardian's and it was not until after his graduation in 1910 that Lahner was able to pursue his true passion: oil painting. Lahner's enthusiasm for painting seems to have stemmed from a boyhood incident when he came upon a man restoring a crucifix near his village. The artisan offered the curious boy a tube of green paint. This event sparked the young boy's interest in art and led to what became a lifelong vocation.
Free from his guardian's influence Lahner abandoned his engineering career in 1915 and enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in Budapest where he studied under the masters Vaszary and Kochine. During this early stage of artistic development almost all of his works were landscapes of tiny villages and wooded hills.
Immediately following World War I much of Hungary was sacked by neighboring Romania and the new Soviet Republic. During the subsequent "Red Terror" and "White Terror" thousands were either jailed or killed. In this harshly repressive atmosphere many artists and intellectuals, including Lahner, were forced to flee their homeland or chose to emigrate.
During his tenure at the School of Fine Arts in Budapest Lahner visited an art exhibition in Lausanne, Switzerland. Seeing for the first time the works of Delacroix, Van Gogh and Monet had a profound impact on the young artist. He decided shortly thereafter to move to Paris where he could study the modern masters.
Lahner arrived in Paris in 1924 and took up residence in the Latin Quarter. After a year he moved to Avenue Junot in Montmartre, where he lived until returning to the Left Bank in 1927 to reside in the Villa Seurat.
Like many artists before him, Lahner was entranced by the brilliant light of the Mediterranean coast. Throughout the 1920's he traveled to Sanary-sur-Mer, Saint Tropez and Saint-Paul-de-Vence, where he spent the summers painting seaside landscapes and villages.
The years following the Stock Market Crash of 1929 were difficult for most artists, especially those who were not members of the elite gallery circles. In 1931 Lahner moved to a working-class neighborhood south of Montparnasse where he lived in a small single room with a packed-dirt floor.
To make ends meet he took odd jobs as a painter for Paris theaters and movie producers.
Despite these difficult circumstances, Lahner developed a modestly successful international career. He exhibited his works in Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Boston.
His work from this period includes landscapes, portrayals of animals and acrobats, as well as paintings of idealized nudes such as that in "Etude De Buste." During this time he also began to develop his abstract style.
In 1939, just before war struck Europe, Lahner painted a solemn self- portrait, one of three known to have been executed by the artist. This painting appears on the last page of this booklet.
As the Third Reich rolled across Europe, Lahner joined many artists who took refuge in Vichy France in the Dordogne. He stayed with the Averseng family in their chateau and traveled throughout the region. He seemed particularly impressed with the town of Collogne-la-Rouge, where he painted a large number of luminous canvases of its remarkable sandstone buildings.
Having been educated as a mining engineer he also explored Dordogne's famous caves and studied the primitive art covering the underground walls. In later years he incorporated these primitive elements into a series of paintings.
After the liberation of Paris in 1945 Lahner returned to rue des Perichaux where he began to exhibit his work more frequently. The post-War era was not only one of steady work for the artist, but also one of extensive travel. In 1948 he made his first of many trips to Algeria.
Lahner's stay in Dordogne during the war carried a lasting influence on both his art and career. The primitive forms that he had discovered in the caves began to emerge in paintings such as "Prehistoire."
Lahner's former hosts in Dordogne, the Averseng family, commissioned him to design a chapel for the town of El Affroun. This assignment provided an opportunity for Lahner to participate in the fascination with chapel construction and adornment that was then popular in France. More importantly, Lahner's exploration of stained glass and its refractive properties during this project had a profound impact on the remainder of his abstract work.
The 1950's also marked the beginning of two important relationships for the artist. In 1957, at the age of 64, Lahner married Jeanne Cazenave. And in 1959 he met an American art dealer from California named Laszlo Laky. Mr. Laky became one of the artist's closest friends.
Following his marriage, Lahner moved from his spartan studio of twenty five years on rue des Perichaux to an apartment on rue Alfred-Stevens, near the Place Pigalle.
In the Spring of 1961 Lahner received critical success in a watershed exhibition at the Galerie Jeanne Castel. This exhibition was under
the patronage of Lahner's old friend, Leopold Sedar Senghor, a well-known poet and the former president of Senegal. Many of the artist's abstract works from the 1960's had the distinct geometric elements of stained glass. But the artist as always continued to press on with his personal experiments.
Colored zones of his paintings abutted one another at sharp angles, conforming to the space defined by lines. Other colored forms were blurred at the edges, as they might be in nature. Contrasting tones gave an approximation of the effects of light and shadows, but there is no specific source of illumination.
Critics writing of the Jeanne Castel exhibition found it difficult to categorize Lahner's paintings of this period. His work, they noted, reflected a synthesis of Cubistic formulae with Impressionistic color.
During the 1970's Lahner exhibited in both Paris and in California. He purchased a small villa in Vence with the proceeds from these exhibitions. From the villa's terrace he looked out over the precipitous hills that were lined with olive trees and covered in soft reflective light.
In the final decade of his career, Lahner had returned to his Impressionistic roots for inspiration, but with a bold, abstract style of expression. He produced some of the most imaginative works of his entire oeuvre.
One of the last surviving members of L'Ecole de Paris, Emile Lahner died on December 14, 1980 in Paris at the age of 87.