Josef Herman was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1911. He studied art at the Warsaw School of Art (1929-1931) and then began work as a freelance graphic artist and designer. In 1935 he co-founded a group of artists called The Phrygian Cap, who drew their subjects from working people. Coming from a Jewish family, he was forced to flee as a refugee first to Belgium, then to France, Scotland and on to Wales in 1940. In England he lived in a village called Ystradgynlais, a mining town which heavily influenced his work. Miners and their families served as a focus for Herman to develop his expressionist technique. It also made him one of the most discussed artists of the 1950’s.
Herman went on to produce many paintings, drawings and prints that constitute a unique and personal body of work. He used rich color and simple shapes to create paintings of great depth. Herman’s motifs would range from the still life to portraits and landscapes but his subject matter would often center on the truths of human experience and the dignity of labor and the human spirit.
In 1946, Herman held his first one-man show and many exhibitions were to follow. He has had retrospectives of his work shown at the Wakefield Art Gallery, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London and at the Glasgow City Art Gallery in 1975. In 1990 he was elected Royal Academician and continued to paint until his recent death in 2000. Herman’s work continues to be esteemed and collected and is housed in many private and public collections all over the world such as the Aberdeen Art Gallery; Arts Council of Great Britain; Contemporary Art Society; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal; Tate Gallery, London; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Tel Aviv Art Gallery; and Toronto Art Gallery among others.