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Josef Herman centenary exhibition

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Laura Chamberlain Laura Chamberlain | 12:05 UK time, Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Polish artist Josef Herman will forever be associated with the Welsh mining town of Ystradgynlais and his paintings of industrial Wales and the mining community.

To mark his importance on the visual arts world in Wales, the School of Art Gallery at Aberystwyth University is currently holding a centenary exhibition of his work.

Paintings and drawings of Ystradgynlais are the focus of the exhibition, which have been selected by Agi Katz, the director of the Boundary Gallery in London. The centenary show also includes important works loaned by the Herman family and from the Herman Estate.

Black and white photo of Josef Herman © Bernard Mitchell

Josef Herman © Bernard Mitchell

Herman was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1911. He was educated until the age of 12, after which he became an apprentice printer and then an artist. He studied at the Warsaw School of Art between 1930 and 1932, and exhibited for the first time in Warsaw in 1932.

In 1938 he fled his homeland to Belgium due to the mounting anti-Semitism, in advance of the Germany invasion and outbreak of World War Two. Though he managed to flee, he lost his entire family in the Holocaust.

Herman moved to France and then the UK, arriving in Scotland and settling in Glasgow in 1940, where he stayed for four years. He visited Ystradgynlais for a two week holiday in 1944, but ended up making the mining community his home for the next 11 years.

He later moved on to Suffolk and then London, but towards the end of his life commented, "only Ystradgynlais changed my life and my work… When I left I took it with me."

The Josef Herman Centenary exhibition runs at the School of Art Gallery at Aberystwyth University until Friday 29 July, open each Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm. Visit the website to find out about this and other exhibitions at the university.


  • Comment number 1.

    He produced some exciting work, a truly inspirational figure. Herman escaped the Holocaust and was famously adopted by the people of Ystradgynlais, where he lived for 11 years. Its got 'book' written all over it (pardon the pun). Its very upsetting about him losing his entire family.

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