First paintings in Berlin and on the Baltic island of Rügen.
1961: Trip to Paris, where he discovers the “Fauves”. Their colours fascinate him and strongly influence his own colours during the years that follow.
1965: Lichtner-Aix travels to Provence for the very first time. “[…] I sensed that here I would find what I had within me, an affinity with the colours of the countryside,” he noted some time later.
He adopts the surname “Aix” as his nom d'artiste
1967: Gives up his profession as a mechanical engineer following his decision to become a painter. Studios in Munich and Aix-en-Provence. The series of paintings produced around this time include “Gypsy Festival”, “Camargue Paintings” and “Bright Paintings”.
1968: First important exhibition at the Änne Abels Gallery in Cologne.
1969: Lithographic portfolio “Côte d’Azur”.
Lichtner-Aix is unable to relate to the prevailing abstract painting of his time: “I have never given any thought to whether my work is contemporary or not, but it was clear from the very outset that the only style of painting offered in Germany at that time – Art informel – would be of no interest to me. I was seeking – and I am still seeking – the proximity to the paintings of Romanticism – Rottmann, Turner, Friedrich, Watteau, Poussin, Claude Lorrain.”
Painting, for Lichtner-Aix, had a completely different aim: “Art must go the way of clarity and simplicity. It should not ignore the ecological problems of our time. I envisage a kind of painting that goes back to the very origins in order to create what is authentically new.”
From 1970 onwards, Lichtner-Aix spends most of the year Provence, in Sérignan-du-Comtat. Besides applying himself to the mammoth task of building their home from the castle ruins, the artist now begins to discover the Provençal landscape. His main theme is now the landscape and the human being, the human being as an integral part of nature. The anecdotal, travelling aspect of his work – like the boule players or the scenes of his Côte d'Azur landscapes – slowly fades into the background. The scenes now take on a more universal character and meaning; they are now the expression of his philosophy in pure colour.
The hills of Sérignan and the Plan de Dieu – a plain stretching from Mont Ventoux all the way to Orange – are now ever recurring motifs.
His series of paintings titled “Open Landscape” are a celebration of pure colour. They are followed by his “Mistral Paintings”. Lichtner-Aix writes: “The Mistral, the cold wind that blows from the North down the Rhône Valley, is an elementary phenomenon that culminates in a violent explosion of colour – often the only motif – in the Mistral Paintings. Here the wind serves as a welcome pretext for the use of pure colour.”
The monograph published by Wittemann, Munich, in 1975 documents the works of this period in great detail.
The second half of the 1970s sees the production of a series of sculptures, carved in sandstone or cast in bronze using the cire perdu technique. Sculpture is important for Lichtner's painting and graphic work, as he himself states: “My figures are materialized drawings in three dimensions. They serve to enrich the spectrum of my painting.
In 1976 Lichtner-Aix's paintings undergo a significant change. They are more tranquil and the colours are now more subtly nuanced. His “Cloud Paintings” are characteristic of this change of style. The art historian Professor Rainer Beck describes Lichtner-Aix as a prominent exponent of a nature-oriented style of painting that “expresses cosmic affinity simply through colour and material.”
Lichtner-Aix comes to be known as the “Painter of Provence”, but he himself cannot agree: “That is wrong. It is only by chance that I came to Provence and and chose this landscape. Some other cultural landscape in ochre and blue might easily have energized in me a similar reaction.”
Until 1976, Lichtner-Aix's graphic work mainly takes the form of lithographs. Only a few monochrome etchings have been produced, like the “Jean-Henri Fabre” cycle of 1972. His new treatment of colour proves unsuitable for the lithographic process. Lichtner-Aix turns to etching as a more suitable technique and, in close experimental collaboration with his printer, soon produces etchings that match the aesthetic quality of his paintings. He even succeeds in lending his etchings the painterliness of his canvases. Here too the landscape and the human being are his theme. Rainer Beck comments on the painterliness of Lichtner-Aix's etchings as follows: “the painterly effect […] is extraordinary and places him among the best of our contemporary etchers.”
In 1977 Lichtner-Aix produces his series of etchings “Camargue – Variations on a Seascape” as a portfolio.
In 1979 his wife Monique publishes her book “La cuisine provençale” through the art publishers Weingarten. The illustrations have been drawn by Lichtner-Aix.
In 1980, inspired by his illustrations for the book “La cuisine provençale”, Lichtner-Aix produces his series of etchings “Aïoli”, likewise as a portfolio.
In 1981, Lichtner-Aix builds a studio specially to give him the “ideal, unspectacular light” he has always been seeking.
The village square, people under trees – these are the motifs that continue to inspire him. "I am not concerned with romantic genre scenes or with any new kind of romanticism, as some people like to see it. I am fascinated by the light. The light is at its most interesting where its modulation or refraction is at its most nuanced and differentiated – under the branches and leaves of trees. Elements that are essentially static, like plane trees or the walls of a house, take on a dynamic quality through the constantly changing light. And since the movement of figures and persons is also part and parcel of this phenomenon, the result is absolute harmony of the elements. So for me it is not all that important to capture certain characters and/or physiognomies; for me they are, more than anything else, vehicles of light."
New landscape paintings now follow in close succession - “Belvedere”, “Morning Mist”, “Landscapes where the detail is waived for the sake of the whole,” writes Lichtner-Aix. “Here the eye is focused on distance and depth. Hovering horizons. Above them a dramatic sky. The landscape as a pretext for the release of colour. Sky, for me, is the experience of colour, just that, and it can never be spoilt by the hand of man.”
ETravelling through Tunisia, Lichtner-Aix is inspired by its desert landscape and Arab markets. A whole flurry of watercoloured drawings ensues.
1982 sees the publication of his wife's second book “Knoblauch, Kräuter und Oliven” (Garlic, Herbs and Olives”), which he also illustrates and which is likewise published through the art publishers Weingarten.
A year later, in 1983, Weingarten publishes the monograph “Werner Lichtner-Aix” containing a complete index of prints from 1967 to 1983. The introduction is written by Prof. Dr. Rainer Beck.
In the same year, Lichtner-Aix produces a series of etchings under the title “Mediterranean Landscape”.
The highlights of 1983 and 1984 are cycling tours through Morocco together with French friends and cycling veterans. Lichtner-Aix is captivated by the absolute solitude and unique colours of the Moroccan desert.
1984 also sees the creation of a series of large-format chalk and pigment drawings on the theme of “Memories”, which were published by a German industrial company both as a calendar and in portfolio form.
A year later, in 1985, another German company publishes a calendar of drawings created by Lichtner-Aix on the theme of “The Working World”.
In 1985 Werner Lichtner-Aix again goes on a cycling tour through Sinai. “It was a journey to the primaeval colours of the Earth,” he writes, “I was able to experience them in all their purity and mobility.” He describes these landscapes in a tiny sketchpad measuring only 12x16 cm, sometimes using desert sand as a painting medium.
Back in his studio in Sérignan, Lichtner-Aix produces large-format drawings, oil paintings and watercolours – deeply contemplative images of oneness with nature.
In the same year, Lichtner-Aix produces his series of “Sinai” etchings.
The monograph “Werner Lichtner-Aix” is published by Literart, Geneva/Cologne.
In 1986 Werner Lichtner-Aix falls seriously ill. He works through the sketchpad
records of his travels through Sinai. His book “Sinai – Colours of a Landscape – Landscape of Colours” is published in the same year by the art publishers Weingarten, as well as a calendar of “Tunisian Watercolours”.
During a holiday on Sicily he produces sketches and small-format drawing of the island's sites of ancient Greek culture.
Only a year later, in 1987, Werner Lichtner-Aix dies from his illness.
In his funeral oration, Prof. Dr. Rainer Beck says: “In spite of his early death, Werner Lichtner-Aix's oeuvre is distinguished by its extraordinary consistency. […] He achieved an inward equilibrium in his art that reached its zenith towards the end of his life in his Sinai landscapes: reduced to their absolute, elementary simplicity, they are awash with supernatural light in all its harmony. As though it were a matter of course, the human being becomes an integral part of this harmony, entirely at one with the elements. His art forever seeks what is pure and unspoilt in a landscape or in a scene from life – its intangible essence.”
A year after Lichtner-Aix's death, in 1988, the publishing house Weingarten publishes the monograph “Werner Lichtner-Aix” with the artist's last works and a completed index of prints from 1984 to 1987.
Among the last works of Lichtner-Aix are 13 coloured drawings of European cultural landscapes, which are published as a calendar by a German industrial company.
A monograph calendar, “Werner Lichtner-Aix”, is published in 1989 by the Gerorgi-Verlag. Further monograph calendars, published by Weingarten, followed in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 2005, each one devoted to different creative phases of the artist's career.
The work of Werner Lichtner-Aix has attained international renown, thanks not least to almost 200 solo exhibitions and countless publications, including the film “The Painter Lichtner-Aix” made by Udo Philipp for the German TV channel ZDF.
He leaves behind a vast oeuvre of oil paintings, drawings, watercolours, gouaches, collages, numerous sketchbooks, sculptures and 261 lithographs and etchings.