Three men with wheelbarrows, 1969
Pen and wash on paper
7 x 8 7/8 in, 17.8 x 22.5 cm
Josef Herman was born in 1911 into a poor Jewish family from Warsaw. Between 1930 -1932 he studied at the Warsaw School of Art where he exhibited with a young group of left-wing artists called The Phrygyan Bonnet. In 1938 anti-Semitism pogroms forced him to flee Warsaw for Brussels then France and finally to the UK. He initially settled in Glasgow, where he lived from 1940 -1943 and befriended Jankel Adler, another Polish refugee artist. Herman’s early work merged childhood memories to present scenes of pre-War Warsaw, Jewish traditions and his family.
Upon moving to the small mining town of Ystradgynlais in South Wales in 1944, Herman’s style shifted dramatically. He described how “Ystradgynlais changed my life and my work… Ystradgynlais mattered”. The area provided a wealth of inspiration and gave Herman an understanding of the hardships and warmth of community there – something which he so skilfully depicts in his drawings.
'From 1951, as I now see it, my drawing became more sculptural, the washes more controlled for that sculptural end, the contrast stronger and the line lost all the remnants of “beauty”, a thing I did not regret. Beauty and I were in a long lasting conflict but not until 1951 did I get the better of it.' Josef Herman
In 'Three men with wheelbarrows' of 1969, the weight of the figures is palpable. Differing from earlier works such as 'Two fishermen on deck', the bodies of these men are both sculptural and dense. The dark washes of ink and determined black lines of their silhouettes give the figures a substance that is typical of Herman’s later works.
Herman has been featured in numerous group and solo exhibitions. During his lifetime large retrospectives of his works were held at Whitechapel Gallery, London (1956), Auckland City art Gallery, New Zealand (1956), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (1957), Camden Arts Centre, London (1980), Royal Academy of Arts, London (1991), National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (1992) to name but a few. His works are also held in many public collections such as The British Museum, London, Manchester City Art Galleries, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Tate Britain, London, Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal and National Gallery, Melbourne.
From the artist, July 1969
The Roland family, UK
Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, "Joseph Herman Retrospective", 30th May - 6th Jul 1975, cat. 71
Scottish Arts Council Gallery, Edinburgh, "Josef Herman Retrospective", 19th Jul - 10th Aug 1975
National Museum of Wales, "Josef Herman Retrospective", 23rd Aug - 22nd Sept 1975
West Surrey College of Art and Design, Farnham, "Josef Herman", 13th - 28th Jan 1976
Bury St. Edmunds Art Gallery, 3rd May - 7th June 1976
"Fifty Herman Drawings from the Roland Collection" London, Graphis Press, 1974