Catalogue entry

Josef Herman 1911-2000

from Studies for ‘The Pit Pony’:
Three Seated Miners, Miner with Pony in Background c.1953-5


Ink and wash on cream wove paper 171 x 226 (6 ¾ x 8 7/8)

Inscribed on back in pencil ‘IB’ top right and ‘582’ bottom right

Presented by the artist 1981

?Drawing Towards Painting, Arts Council tour 1961-2, Leicester Art Gallery, October-November 1961, Arts Council Gallery, Cambridge, November-December, Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, December 1961-January 1962, Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry, January-February, Gracefield Art Centre, Dumfries, February-March, Nottingham University Gallery, March, Turner House, Penarth, April, York City Art Gallery, May, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, June, Arts Council Gallery, London, July-August, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, August-September 1962 (no number)
?Josef Herman: Retrospective Exhibition, Camden Arts Centre, London, January-March 1980 (85a as ‘The Pit Pony Preliminary drawings ... Study for tones in the composition, pen and ink and brown wash’)

Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, London 1984, pp.126-8, reproduced p.127

Josef Herman gave the Tate Gallery nine Studies for ‘The Pit Pony’ to accompany the painting The Pit Pony 1958-9 (T00354). Within the group two sheets stand out as wash studies for the composition: Three Seated Miners, Miner with Pony in Background and the related Two Seated Miners, Miner with Pony in Background (T03200). The inscriptions on the reverse – ‘1B’ and ‘1A’ respectively[1] – suggest a sequence and may increase the likelihood that they are the works which were described in the 1961 exhibition Drawings Towards Painting as: ‘the principal elements of the composition are established in the first, the accents of light in the second’.[2] One of these was identified two decades later as ‘Study for tones in the composition’.[3] Certainly Three Seated Miners, Miner with Pony in Background does show ‘the principal elements of the composition’ and concentrates upon tonal contrast rather than detail. The dark brownish-grey wash in the central distance, which envelopes the pony and handler, is worked around the left hand figure and includes an extension into the foreground also found in the painting. This is a strengthening of the thinner wash across most of the image, which is laid on with noticeable haste. This establishes the fall of light. In the case of the pair of miners, this is followed in the painting, but the lighting of the left hand figure was modified on the canvas to be more in keeping with the shallow space of the eventual image.

This is one of nine sheets of Studies for ‘The Pit Pony’ presented by the artist; general issues relating to their creation are discussed in the entry on Reclining Miner (Tate T03196).

Matthew Gale
Nov. 1998

[1] ‘1D’ is inscribed on Reclining Miner (T03196) and ‘1C’ on Two Sketches of Two Seated Miners, Sketch of a Single Miner (T03194)
[2] Drawing Towards Painting, Arts Council tour 1961-2 (no number)
[3] Josef Herman: Retrospective Exhibition, Camden Arts Centre, London, January-March 1980 (85a)