Born Warsaw, Poland
Died London, England
Painter and draughstman Josef Herman was born into a Jewish, working-class family in Warsaw in 1911. He studied at Warsaw School of Art and Decoration (1930-31), and first exhibited in his native city in 1932. He left Poland for Brussels in 1938 and arrived in Glasgow in 1940, where he was reunited with fellow Polish artist Jankel Adler, whom he had known briefly in Warsaw. Together the two artists contributed to a resurgence of the Scottish arts scene during this period.
Herman moved to London in 1943, prior to his relocation to the Welsh mining village of Ystradgynlais (1944-55), which gave rise to his best-known body of work focusing on the Welsh miners and their community.
Herman's work was included in the South Bank Festival of Britain Exhibition in 1951 and he exhibited widely including at the Lefevre galleries, London (with L S Lowry, 1943), with the emigre art dealers Roland, Browse & Delbanco (1946, 1948, 1952, then regularly until 1975), in London, with Ben Uri (including alongside Martin Bloch in 1949), the Geffrye Museum (with Henry Moore, 1954), the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1956), Camden Arts Centre (1980), National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (1989), Abbot Hall, Kendal (2005), and many exhibitions with Flowers and Flowers East Galleries. His work is represented in many collections including London (Tate, V&A), Wales (National Museum), Scotland (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art); as well as in Canada, Australia, Israel, South Africa and New Zealand.
Date 1974, reworked 1998
Object type painting
Medium Oil and mixed media on canvas
Unframed 119. 38 x 91.4 cm
Framed 135.89 x 104.78 cm
Signed (Verso) 'J. Herman: Auschwitz / mixed media'
Acquisition Presented from the estate of Josef Herman 2017
Accession number 2017-04
Display status not on display
Herman began this work in the late 1970s, reworking it in the 1990s. It was known by a number of titles including 'In Memory of the Fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto', 'In Memory of the Holocaust Survivors', 'In Memory of the Holocaust Victims' and 'Tribute to Goya's Black Pictures'. It is related to a preliminary study, which in 1993 was reproduced on the front of his wife Nini's novel 'Vellogria', depicting a grieving woman. Herman wrote in his notebook that he had begun the work as a tribute to the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, 'but the longer I worked on it I put in more emotions which wanted to cry out for all the victims of our times: the two million gypsies, the six million Jews etc. The list is too long for a small page.' He later referred to the painting as 'my only painting of suffering and protest'. Herman had long been inspired by Goya: an early watercolour, 'A lecture on Goya', depicted a working-class audience looking at a screen displaying a slide of the Goya self-portrait just glimpsed in the background to his masterly family portrait, 'My Family and I' (1941), painted during his sojourn in Glasgow. Following this, Herman learned in 1942 that his entire family had perished in the Warsaw Ghetto. During his subsequent breakdown he was nursed back to health by fellow Polish-Jewish refugee Jankel Adler.
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Study for 'In Memory of the Fighters for the Warsaw Ghetto'
by Josef Herman