Herman, Josef RA OBE

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Josef Herman RA OBE

1911 – 2000

Josef Herman, also known in Wales as Joe Bach (January 1911 – 19 February 2000), was a highly regarded Polish-British realist painter who influenced contemporary art, particularly in the United Kingdom. His work often had subjects of workers and was inherently political.

Herman was born in Warsaw, Poland into a Jewish family, in January 1911. He attended the Warsaw School of Art for two years before working briefly as a graphic artist.

In 1938, at the age of 27, Herman left Poland for Brussels to escape anti-Semitism. He was introduced to many of the prominent artists then working in the city. After the beginning of World War II and the German invasion of Belgium, he escaped to France and then to Great Britain.

Herman studied working people as the subjects of his art, including grape pickers, fishermen and, most notably, coal miners. The latter became a particular interest for Herman during the eleven years that he lived in Ystradgynlais, a mining community in South Wales, beginning in 1944. He became part of the community, where he was fondly nicknamed “Joe Bach”. Among his creative collaborators and friends in Wales was the artist Will Roberts, who lived in Neath.

In 1981 Herman was awarded an OBE for services to British Art and was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1990.