Josef Herman (1911 - 2000)

Nationality: Polish

Josef Herman was born in Warsaw and trained at the Warsaw School of Art. His early artwork recorded scenes of peasants and the ghettos of Warsaw, the underclasses and the manual labour which sustained them were constant themes through his career. He briefly worked in Poland as a typesetter and graphic artist before emigrating to Brussels in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution. He met prominent artists in Belgium before the Nazi advance forced his to escape again, firstly to France and then to Britain where he settled in Glasgow and then London. In 1944 he visited the South Wales mining town of Ystradgynlais for a brief sketching trip, he was inspired and stayed in the community for 11 years. During this period he produced some of his best known images of the mining community, culminating in his 1951 mural for the Festival of Britain pavillions, it sealed his reputation and Josef Herman became a great influence to a generation of artists.

In 1955 he moved firstly to London and then settled in Southwold on the North Suffolk coast. He continued to paint miners, from sketches and memory throughout his career, but also painted the agricultural labourers and fisherfolk of Suffolk. In 1972 he returned to London for the reminder of his life, in 1990 he was elected Royal Academician.

Josef Herman was a prolific artist and works circulate with some frequency at auction, he painted in oils and watercolours and frequently monochrome works, later in his career he produced lithographs. Typically works on paper fetch mid hundreds at auction, oils can range from low thousands into five figures for important works.

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