Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Josef Herman

I note that tonight, Rolf on Welsh Art is doing a program on Josef Herman.

He is reportedly a painter of realism according to some art resources. It is always difficult to pidgeon hole any artist as belonging to a particular style or grouping. I am not sure that Josef would have considered himself as such. His paintings were dark and much to do with the dignity of the”working class”.

Josef lived in Wales for about 10 or 11 years and during that time he drew and painted quite a number of scenes from daily life of the miners. Miners were portrayed as the heroes of the working class by Josef. In many respects I can understand that.

In 1972 I was at The Battle of Saltley Gate, where Arthur Scargill with his mass picketing shut down a Birmingham coke works. The event became one of the epiphanies of his life. I would add that I was merely a witness to the event and played no active part. Arthur was in charge of the final dispute which devastated the miners and their way of life.

Many people at the time and after expressed their views on the Miners and the Dispute. It is all well and good to have a view on the subject but if you haven’t been down a working mine then it is a view based on ignorance. I have been down a working coalmine and the coal face is noisy, dirty, dangerous, and claustraphobic. You are unable to stand sit breath or do anything comfortably. A man who can work in those conditions day after day is a very special person and for my money is worth twice whatever he is paid.

Josef clearly admired the miners for their strength and courage but also portrayed the the darker realities of their hard lives.

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