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This review is taken from PN Review 66, Volume 15 Number 4, March - April 1989.

RECORDS Josef Herman, Notes From a Welsh Diary (Free Association Books) £45.00 hb, £19.95 pb


"Every painter is born somewhere and even if later he responds to the influences of other surroundings, a certain essence, a certain aroma of his native land will always remain in his work."


Josef Herman would wholly agree with Chagall's belief; indeed, part of his own recollection of his Polish background and upbringing is coloured by his debt to Chagall, whose racial identity brooded over so many artists who were the friends and contemporaries of Herman: "Chagall handed over to the Jewish youth of my generation a living charm, a hypnotic lore, an identity."

If we are to understand the significance of Herman's Notes from a Welsh Diary we have to know the transmutation of his Polish upbringing into his affinity with the Welsh miner. It was in many ways a tragic journey. Leaving Warsaw for Belgium, he was given new means of insight by Permeke and Servaes; arriving in Glasgow he found a renewed identity in the friendship of Benno Schotz and Jankel Adler. There he was able to recreate in a splendid series of drawings his memories of Warsaw; those drawings are a social history which prepared the artist for a union of diary with image-making which makes of these Notes the most powerful sociological and artistic record of a vanishing industrial society, the South-Welsh coal-field.

But Glasgow and Ystradgynlais were to be both darkened and illuminated by tragedy:


"In 1942 I learnt ...


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