1911 - 2000

Josef Herman

Also known in Wales as Joe Bach, was born in Warsaw, Poland on 3 January 1911, son of David Herman, a cobbler. A highly regarded Polish-British realist painter who influenced contemporary art, particularly in the United Kingdom. From 1930 he attended the Warsaw School of Art for two years before working briefly as a graphic artist but in 1938, at the age of 27, Herman left Poland for Brussels to escape anti-Semitism and where he was introduced to many of the prominent artists then working in the city. With the German invasion of Belgium, he escaped to France and then to Great Britain living firstly in Glasgow before moving to London where he met numerous other European émigrés, such as the Hungarian Michael Peto, with whom he became friends. Herman studied working people as the subjects of his art, including grape pickers, fishermen and, most notably, coal miners. From 1944 Herman spent eleven years in Ystradgynlais, a mining community in South Wales and became part of the community, where he was fondly nicknamed ‘Joe Bach’. In 1951 he was commissioned to paint a mural for the Festival of Britain when Herman took coal miners as his subject, this work ‘Miners’ showed six men resting above ground after their work and the mural is held in the permanent collection of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, affiliated with the Swansea Museum. In 1955 he left Wales because his health was affected by the damp climate living briefly in Spain and then in London. In 1955 he moved to Suffolk with his partner, Eleanore [Nini] Ettlinger, whom he married in 1961 when he was working in Dunwich and Southwold. The tragic death of their 4 year old daughter Sara, prompted them to move away and from 1972 Herman lived 120 Edith Road, West London where he died on 19 February 2000. In 1981 Herman was awarded an OBE for services to British Art and elected a senior at the Royal Academy on 30 May 1990. Some of Herman's work was collected by the Davies sisters, British art patrons and collectors in Wales, as part of their 20th-century holdings and they bequeathed their joint collection of 260 works, particularly strong in Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings and sculptures, to the National Museum Wales, greatly expanding its range.

Works by This Painter