Art students in Years 8 and 10 enjoyed exclusive access to the Josef Herman exhibition at Swansea Museum. Professional artist Victoria Coyle gave an informative and enthusiastic tour of the pieces before leading a practical session that encouraged students to create their own works inspired by what they had seen in the exhibition.
We were very fortunate to work with Victoria, who creates figurative and installation art. She is curator and director at The Welcome Gallery on Gower and a professional art psychotherapist. Victoria encouraged students to experiment with different mediums such as black felt pens, candle wax, oil pastels and water to create similar effects to those in Herman’s paintings. She was very impressed with the students’ insights into Herman’s work and the quality of their final pieces.
Students clearly connected with the paintings, with Holly observing “they don’t have to look like humans to be human”, and Summayah adding that she really could “feel the artist is there in the paintings because the emotions are so real”. Ffion recognised that his skill was in his ability to use “just a few lines to tell a story or show an emotion”.
Maria was surprised that the same man who created the masculine images of industrial workers that they had been studying in class could also “capture the tenderness of the relationship between a mother and child”.
It was a fascinating morning full of inspiration for further work. The exhibition runs until 10th July and admission is free.
Josef Herman is known for his depictions of the Welsh mining community in Ystradgynlais.
Born in Poland in 1911, to a poor Jewish family, he attended Warsaw School of Art. His first exhibition was in Warsaw in 1932. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, he fled Poland to Belgium in 1938 when he was 27. After the German invasion, he moved to France and later Scotland, where he lived and worked in Glasgow for four years. Herman lost his entire family in the Holocaust.
In 1944, he visited Ystradgynlais in the Swansea valley on holiday, and settled there until 1955. Herman’s bold and distinctive style was ideally suited to his imagery of the Welsh miners and working people.
He became an established artist and was awarded an OBE in 1981. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1990, and died in February 2000.
More information about the exhibition: http://www.swanseamuseum.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions
More information about the Josef Herman Foundation: http://josefhermanfoundation.org