Josef Herman

Study for ‘Dusk’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Josef Herman 1911–2000
Graphite and gouache on paper
Support: 562 × 765 mm
Presented by Curwen Studio 1976

Catalogue entry

Josef Herman 1911-2000

Study for ‘Dusk’ 1965


Gouache and pencil on cartridge paper 562 x 765 (22 1/8 x 30 1/8)

Presented by the Curwen Studio 1976

Commissioned from the artist by Marlborough Fine Art, London and the Curwen Studio, London 1965

Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1976-8, London 1979, pp.90-1

Study for ‘Dusk’, like Study for ‘In the Mountains’ (T02095) acquired at the same time, was made in preparation for a lithograph. It derived from sketches made during Herman’s holidays in Spain.[1] Considerable changes were made in the course of the painting, evident in the white impasto around the donkey’s ears and the brown overpainting of the figures’ feet (which has resulted in brown peeling off the underlying black).[2] Once resolved, however, the image was followed accurately when the lithograph, Dusk (P06277), was completed. This was facilitated by the positional guides careful marked in pencil at all four margins. The colour scheme – blue to the left, yellow to the right, with the woman and donkey in brown – is also closely matched in the print, although the blue of the upper left quarter is more modulated in the gouache.

The image is of Spanish workers returning from the fields after a day’s work. Rather than being simply realistic, they are ranged emblematically across the composition, filling its height: a man carrying a load on his shoulder, a man with a short donkey, and a woman in an apron. As ‘types’ they suggest different aspects to labour – male and female tasks, the husbandry of animals – while also suggesting a communal co-operation. Herman’s fundamental themes of humanity and labour remained in such works even if he had moved away from the dominance of Welsh subjects.

Dusk and In the Mountains were two of three lithographs commissioned by Marlborough Fine Art in 1965 to be made at the Curwen Studio; the third print was Figure against Dark Sky (P06278). The Studios had been set up by Robert Erskine of the St George’s Gallery and the Curwen Press to facilitate the production of artists’ prints as a way of making contemporary art affordable.[3] Herman began to make lithographs there in 1960, and has continued to do so, making a bird image coincidentally entitled Dusk in 1980.[4] Study for ‘Dusk’, together with the gouaches Study for ‘In the Mountains’ and Two Women Weeding (T02097), was presented by the Curwen Studio in 1976, the year after they had made a large donation of prints (including works by Herman) to the Tate Gallery through the Institute of Contemporary Prints.

Matthew Gale
December 1998

[1] Josef Herman, conversation 16 February1977, Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1976-8, London 1979, p.90

[2] Tate Gallery conservation files
[3] Pat Gilmour, Artists at Curwen: A Celebration of the Gift of Artists’ Prints from the Curwen Studio, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1977, p.95

[4] Reproduced in Robert Heller, Josef Herman: The Work is the Life, exhibition catalogue, Flowers East, London 1998, p.97 (colour)

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