Drawings and watercolours by Josef Herman

Scope and Content

This collection of drawings and watercolours by Josef Herman are mostly of the people and streets of the Welsh mining village of Ystradgynlais and from 1944/1955. The collection also includes drawings made on a tour of France and Italy in 1948, and studies for major works like 'South Wales', 1951, and 'In Homage for the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto', 1945. Some of the drawings have titles and dates inscribed on them. Others have titles and dates suggested by the artist in conversation and these are indicated. Some of the drawings were included in the artist's book 'Notes from a Welsh Diary 1944-1955' (Free Association Books, 1988). Where the title or date has been taken from this publication (Notes from a Welsh Diary) is included after the title or date. Several of these drawings were included in the Tate Archive display 'Josef Herman: Drawing a Rich Seam, Ystradgynlais 1944-55', 22 May/1 July 1991.

Administrative / Biographical History

Josef Herman was born in Warsaw in 1911. He started his working life as a typesetter in a printing business but took lessons in art from the painter Slupski. In 1930 he enrolled at Warsaw School of Art, subsequently working as a freelance graphic artist. He held his first exhibition in Warsaw in 1932
. He left Poland for Belgium in 1938 and became acquainted with the works of the Flemish Expressionists. When the German troops invaded Belgium, Herman left, first for France and then to Britain. He arrived in June 1940 and lived in Glasgow for three years where he exhibited and designed stage sets.
In 1943 he moved to London where he shared rooms with L.S. Lowry. He first visited the Welsh mining village of Ystradgynlais in 1944, intending to stay a fortnight. He stayed for eleven years. His first studio was in the inn but later he bought a dilapidated factory and transformed it into a living space and studio. In 1948 Herman became a naturalised British subject and visited France and Italy. He was commissioned to contribute a mural for the 1951 Festival of Britain and in the same year his work 'South Wales' (later destroyed) was shown in the Arts Council exhibition '60 paintings for 51'. He left Wales in 1955 moving first to London, then to Suffolk and in 1972 back to London. In 1962 he received a gold medal for his services to Welsh art by the Royal National Eisteddfod. He exhibited widely and has works in the permanent collections of many British and foreign galleries. Josef Herman died in 2000.


The collection is no longer in its original order. However, TGA 835/31 refers to the "following two drawings" which may be TGA 835/19, TGA 835/27 or TGA 835/48.

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers. http://www.tate.org.uk/research/reading-rooms/register

Other Finding Aids

Paper list available


Geographical Names