XVIII: The Late Years


As rightly befitted a man who had survived all the major artistic currents of the twentieth century to date, Lahner spent the last decade of his life reaping the rewards of an exceptionally long career. In addition to his perennial showings at the Laky Gallery in Carmel, he exhibited in Paris at the Galerie Christine Colin (1970), the Galerie Estève (1973 and1974), and the Galerie René Drouet (1977).[123] He was also on hand for the inauguration of the Salle Lahner at the museum of Fontenay-le-Comte in l977 which, with fourteen of the artist's oils and pastels on permanent display, remains the most extensive public collection of his work.[124] His active career as an artist came to an end around l975 however, due principally to his wife's recurrent illness and his own advancing years. While at this point entitled to a well-earned rest, he made one last effort to create something new.

This is his series of Composition paintings, dating to the summer of l973. From the proceeds of his sales Lahner had purchased a small villa in Vence in the late l960s, and it was here from the villa's terrace that he looked out onto the precipitous hills lined with olives and painted.[125] While the forms and colors differ in each Composition , they all stem from a consistent vision of the natural world and from the artist's own personal joy in the act of painting. There are no contour lines or other illusionistic devices to mediate between Lahner's concept of nature and the viewer's, but the juxtaposition of warm and cool tones hints at spatial depth while conveying the sense of soft reflective light. Thus at the very end of his career, Lahner returned to his Impressionist roots for inspiration and, freed from all technical constraints, produced some of the most imaginative works of his entire oeuvre.


(123) Bouret 116. Also J. Bouret, "Pour saluer Lahner," 1977.

(124) E. Lahner , ex. cat., Maison Billaud, Fontenay-le-Comte, 8-26 September 1977.

(125) Lahner's work habits in Vence were closely observed by Georgette Trichet and Odette Herissé during visits with the artist. The Composition paintings were shipped off to San Francisco for an exhibition entitled "Colors and Light in My Garden" at the Maxwell Galleries in 1975. The garden imagery makes this series of pictures comparable to the water lily paintings of Monet in late career, but Lahner was in fact painting the landscape vista from his villa and not a garden.