Josef Herman (1911-2000)

Josef Herman OBE was a highly regarded Polish-British realist painter who influenced contemporary art, particularly in the UK. His work often had subjects of workers and was inherently political. He was among more than a generation of eastern European Jewish artists who emigrated to escape persecution and worked abroad. For eleven years he lived in South Wales.

Herman was born in Warsaw, Poland into a Jewish family, on 3 January 1911. He attended the Warsaw School of Art for two years before working briefly as a graphic artist.

In 1938 at the age of 27, Herman left Poland for Brussels to escape anti-Semitism. He was introduced to many of the prominent artists then working in the city. After the beginning of World War II and the German invasion of Belgium, he escaped to France and then to Great Britain. He first lived in Glasgow before moving to London for a time.

Herman's style was bold and distinctive, involving strong shapes with minimal detail. Herman studied working people as the subjects of his art, including grape pickers, fishermen and, most notably, coal miners. The latter became a particular interest for Herman during the eleven years that he lived in Ystradgynlais, a mining community in South Wales, beginning in 1944.

 

Leaving Wales in 1955 because his health was affected by the damp climate, Herman lived briefly in Spain and then in London. All the same, he won the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the 1962 Wales National Eisteddfod.

In 1955 he moved to Suffolk with his partner, Nini Ettlinger, whom he married in 1961. The tragic death of their young daughter prompted them to move away and from 1972 Herman lived in West London. In 1981 Herman was awarded an OBE for services to British Art and was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1990. He died in February 2000.

Josef Herman (1911-2000), Head of a miner

Josef Herman (1911-2000)

Head of a miner

pen and wash

45 x 38 cm framed

Provenance:

Private collection, UK

Josef Herman (1911-2000), The Village Square

Josef Herman (1911-2000)

The Village Square

pen and wash

39.5 x 45.5 cm framed

Provenance:

Private collection, UK

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