Josef Herman (RA)


Mosek Josek Herman (Josef) was born in Warsaw into a Jewish family in January 1911. His childhood was one of adject poverty and, at the age of 13 he initially trained to be a typesetter, however by 1930 attended the Warsaw School of Art, leaving in 1932. In 1938 to escape Nazi persecution he moved to Brussels, however two years later with Germany about to invade Belgium he fled to France and then onto Glasgow. In 1940 Herman discovered he had lost his entire family in the Holocaust, he channelled his grief into his work, producing ‘memory paintings’ that evoked his childhood and Jewish heritage, along with compositions addressing the horrors of the pogroms.

In 1943, moving to London, Josef exhibited with LS Lowry and was subsequently discovered by the highly respected dealer, Roland Browse and Delbanco in Mayfair, with whom he was then associated with for 35 years.

Herman is best known for his paintings of working people, including peasants, fisherman and most notably, coal miners. In 1944 he moved to Wales to a mining community in Ystradgynlais where he lived for 11 years. In 1951 he was commissioned to paint a mural of miners for the Festival of Britain, this is now housed in the Museum of Wales in Cardiff. In 1952 he joined the London Group and over the next 20 years had many solo exhibitions, displays and retrospectives including Leicester and York (1953), Wakefield (1955), the Whitechapel Gallery in London and the Auckland Gallery in New Zealand (1956), Melbourne (1957), Frankfurt and Sheffield (1958), Bradford (1959) and Swansea (1963). Dresden, Toronto and Montreal also hosted solo exhibitions, while galleries in Britain and abroad started to acquire his work. The Tate Gallery owns many drawings by him and some of his best paintings.

He had a third retrospective exhibition in 1975 at the Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery, and in 1976 his fourth and most important at the Camden Art Centre.

In 1962, Herman was awarded the Royal National Eisteddfod's Gold Medal. He was awarded the OBE in 1981, and in 1990 he was elected to the as a Royal Academy and he had an exhibition, Children of North End Road, at the Royal Academy, London.

Herman died in February 2000

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