An exhibition of previously unseen works by the late artist Josef Herman has opened at Rhondda Heritage Park Gallery.
The Meaningful Mark comprises an exploration of drawings by Herman, who became one of Wales’ most famous adopted artists. The exhibition also features works by contemporary Welsh artists associated with the Josef Herman Foundation.
The event also coincided with the official launch of a new book by Monica Bohm-Duchen called The Art and Life of Josef Herman: In Labour My Spirit Finds Itself, which is currently available at the Park in conjunction with the exhibition.
The official launch welcomed many local and national artists as they celebrated the work of Herman currently on display.
BOOKED: Author Monica Bohm-Duchen’s book The Art and Life of Josef Herman: In Labour My Spirit Finds Itself was launched at the event
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Recreation and Culture Cllr Robert Bevan said: “The work of Josef Herman is known throughout the world and given his close affinity with a Welsh mining community I think it is only fitting that his inspiring paintings go on show in what was once a thriving colliery.
“Rhondda Heritage Park is proud to welcome this exhibit of such exciting and thrilling images which truly capture the mood of a coal industry long since extinguished in the South Wales valleys. I hope many residents and visitors to the county borough enjoy this opportunity to view much of his work on display.”
Josef Herman settled in Ystradgynlais in the Swansea Valley after fleeing Nazi persecution. He grew up among terrible hardship on the Warsaw ghetto tenements during the years when Jews suffered persecution leading up to the Second World War. As a refugee from the German invasion of Poland he lost his entire family to the Nazi concentration camps. He came to Wales purely by accident after jumping on a boat he thought was destined for New York whilst fleeing Nazi persecution. The boat docked in Glasgow and he set up home in Wales.
A chance meeting led to an invitation for him to visit Ystradgynlais where he felt an immediate affinity with the community. He found the Ystradgynlais miners and images of them and their community inspirational. His belief in the dignity of the working man influenced both his painting and his work ethic throughout his life.
Josef Herman returned to the same subjects many times. Foremost were the miners of Ystradagynlais and their families. He followed them down the mines and observed them at rest and play.
Ystradgynlais never forgot the artist’s legacy either and in 2002 the Josef Herman Foundation Cymru was established to promote an appreciation of the life and work of the artist and to stimulating contemporary arts within communities.
Also on display at the Rhondda Cynon Taf tourist attraction are works by contemporary Welsh artists associated with the Josef Herman Foundation. These include Jonathan Anderson, Keith Bayliss, Lynne Bebb, Valerie Ganz, Owen Griffiths, David Hastie, Sarah Hopkins, Megan Jones, Mike Jones, Mary Lloyd Jones, Robert MacDonald, David Marchant, Roger Moss, Osi Rhys Osmond, Vivian Rhule, Fern Thomas, Nigel Williams and Pip Woolf
The Meaningful Mark will be on display at Rhondda Heritage Park Gallery from 1 May – 28June. Open 10am-6pm daily. Free admission.
Monica Bohm-Duchen’s recently launched book The Art and Life of Josef Herman: In Labour My Spirit Finds Itself, published by Ashgate Publishing is on sale throughout the exhibition.