Josef Herman

Son of a cobbler, Josef Herman OBE RA (1911-2000) was born in Warsaw where he studied at the School of Art and Decoration. He worked as a freelance graphic designer and helped form the Phrygian Group of young expressionist-tendency painters. He had his first solo show when he was 21. In 1938 the political situation forced him to leave Poland for Belgium. There he met Constant Permeke who became a major influence on his work. When the Nazis invaded Belgium, Herman moved to France and eventually, with the Polish army, to Glasgow. J.D. Fergusson and Margaret Morris arrived from France and Jankel Adler from Germany.

Herman helped to bring an international flavour to the Glasgow Art scene. He designed and dressed the ‘Ballet of the Palette’ for Margaret Morris’ Celtic Ballet and did an extensive series of drawings of West of Highland fishermen.

Herman moved to a south Wales mining village in 1943 where he was able to give full expression to his idealistic respect for physical toil. He became famous for his paintings of the miners there and was awarded the Gold Medal by the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales and the OBE in 1981. He was elected Royal Academician in 1948.

Herman’s worldly approach to his art, his experience and integrity brought him international recognition and his works are in important museums, from the UK, Germany, Canada and Israel to New Zealand and Australia.

Whether he was dealing with fishermen of Scotland, miners of Wales or Mexican peasants, the underlying theme was always his deep respect for the value of human labour.

He held solo exhibitions with both Compass Gallery and Cyril Gerber Fine Art 1971, 1975, 1984. A major retrospective took place in Glasgow Museums & Art Gallery; Edinburgh Scottish Arts Council Gallery and Cardiff National Museum of Wales, 1975, and then The Third Eye Centre, Glasgow in 1985. His work is held in public collections worldwide.

Selected books on Josef Herman:

'Josef Herman, A Working Life' by Nini Herman, 1996;
Josef Herman 'Memory of Memories', The Glasgow Drawings 1940-43 (Third Eye Centre, 1985);
'Josef Herman, Paintings & Drawings', Retrospective Exhibition, Glasgow Art Gallery & Museum, 1975;
'Josef Herman, The Early Years in Scotland and Wales', Christopher Davies, 1984.