Josef Herman exhibition

Ben Uri past exhibition 2012

Josef Herman RA: Warsaw, Brussels, Glasgow, London 1938-1944

This exhibition followed the six years (1938-44) of Herman’s tumultuous journey as he fled across the four European cities of Warsaw, Brussels, Glasgow, London.

Video content for this exhibition

Sir Jeremy Isaacs talks about the artist Josef Herman.

Ben Uri curator, Sarah MacDougall, tours the exhibition.

Peter Rossiter talks about expressionist painter Martin Bloch and Josef Herman.

David Herman talks about his father Josef Herman.

Unseen works by Herman

This exhibition showed rare artworks from Josef Herman, and brought together for the first time much of Herman’s surviving work from this formative period, when his art was at its most experimental and his use of colour strikingly imaginative.

Josef Herman: Miners

Most works are held in private collections, so have rarely been seen or previously gathered together on such a comparable scale. Included are the few remaining works from Brussels, a series of powerfully expressionist figurative works in oil, gouache and tempera, striking designs for a politically-themed ballet, and many works on paper from the series known as the ‘Memory of Memories’.

These vivid, often poignant, sketches fired by memory and imagination, carried out in Glasgow between 1940 and 1943, bring the memory of Herman’s family (who perished in the Warsaw Ghetto), as well as his lost Warsaw years, back to life.

The Glasgow art scene

The exhibition also includes examples of work by Herman’s contemporaries in Glasgow: fellow Polish émigré Jankel Adler, Estonian-born sculptor Benno Schotz and Scottish colourist J D Fergusson, alongside whom Herman briefly made a considerable contribution to the Glasgow arts scene. At the Ohel Centre in North London (1943-4), Herman mixed with fellow artists Martin Bloch, David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein and Ludwig Meidner (whose work is also included), as well as with the poets Itzik Manger and Avrom Stencl.

Josef Herman:Ystradgynlais

Ystradgynlais and Herman

The exhibition concludes in mid-1944, when Herman’s momentous discovery of the Welsh mining town of Ystradgynlais in South Wales changed the direction of his life and work forever.

The catalogue includes contributions from Herman’s biographer, Monica Bohm-Duchen, as well as Professor Jerzy Malinowski (President of the Polish Institute of World Art Studies and Head of Modern and Oriental Art, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, Poland), Nanny Schrijvers (curator and researcher, the Royal Museum, Antwerp), Douglas Hall (former first Keeper of the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh), the artist’s son, David Herman, Ben Uri’s Head of Curatorial Services, Rachel Dickson and the curator Sarah MacDougall, the inaugural Ben Uri Eva Frankfurther Research and Curatorial Fellow for the study of émigré artists.

The exhibition and accompanying catalogue are part of Ben Uri’s continuing exploration of and commitment to the work of émigré artists. You can purchase the catalogue from the Ben Uri shop.