Josef Herman

Two Separate Sketches, Each with a Pony at Right


Not on display

Josef Herman 1911–2000
Ink on paper
Support: 254 × 200 mm
Presented by the artist 1981

Catalogue entry

Josef Herman 1911-2000

from Studies for ‘The Pit Pony’:
Two Separate Sketches, Each with Pony at Right c.1953-5


Ink on cream laid paper 254 x 201 (10 x 7 7/8)

Inscribed on back in pencil ‘582’ bottom right

Presented by the artist 1981

Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1980-2, London 1984, pp.126-8, reproduced p.128 (as Two Separate Sketches, Each with Pony at the Right)

Two Separate Sketches, Each with Pony at Right was among the nine drawings given to the Tate Gallery in 1981 by Josef Herman as Studies for ‘The Pit Pony’ and thereby related to The Pit Pony 1958-9 (T00354). The closely comparable Two Separate Sketches, Upper One with a Pony at Right (T03202) arrived in the same way. The association with the canvas must, however, be considered tenuous at best, as there are no specific elements found in the pair of sketches which appear in the painting or even have very obvious echoes in the accompanying seven sheets. It may be significant that, while other studies for the painting have been shown, there is no record of either of these sheets being exhibited. Even the slight but telling difference in size of paper (being about 30mm bigger in each dimension than their companions) may be an indication that this pair of sketches did not belong to the same body of preparatory work as those more properly seen as Studies for ‘The Pit Pony’. A general similarity with another bi-partite drawing of the same dimensions and published as Study for Two Compositions of Miners 1960 (private collection),[1] may hint at another group of works.

Even if divested of a specific link to the canvas, the bi-partite Two Separate Sketches, Each with Pony at Right clearly displays the familiar compositional concerns of the moment: notably that of figures resting at the base of telegraph poles and within a shallow pictorial space. The link to the painting was almost certainly encouraged by the intrusion of a man and pack animal at the right of both sketches on the sheet. However, the animal has none of the heroic stature and pose attributed to the pit pony in the other drawings and instead is closer to the donkeys with pricked ears which appear in his contemporary images of French and Spanish peasants. Indeed, it is comparable to the head-on view of a donkey used in both Harvester on Cart 1958 (private collection)[2] and especially in Road at Le Rochepot 1952-3 (private collection)[3] where it is similarly led by a handler (though walking on the other side). This introduces the possibility that Herman saw parallels between his Welsh and continental themes and that a composition could emerge from this conjunction.

This animal and handler are largest in the upper of the two sketches, approaching a seated figure at the base of a pole. The latter has something in common with a figure in Two Separate Sketches for Whole Composition, Pony at Right (T03195) although both are rather unresolved. The lower sketch is more complex as well as being more heavily washed in the reddish-brown ink. Centred around another telegraph pole and with the donkey arriving to the right, it includes two isolated figures in the background (that on the left similar to one at the road side in Two Separate Sketches for Whole Composition, Pony at Centre, T03197) and a pair of seated miners which also have areas washed in grey. Although the latter pair share the inter-relation found in that in the oil painting, they do not adopt the same poses and may be assumed to be typical of Herman’s typology of resting miners. They recur in a similar foreground position in the companion sheet, Two Separate Sketches, Upper One with a Pony at Right where they are shifted to the left. This repetition reinforces the suggestion that both sheets were working towards a composition other than The Pit Pony.

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
November 1998

[1] Reproduced in Edwin Mullins, Josef Herman: Paintings and Drawings, London 1967, fig.26

[2] Reproduced in Robert Heller, Josef Herman: The Work is the Life, exhibition catalogue, Flowers East, London 1998, p.22 (colour)
[3] Ibid., reproduced p.32 (colour)

You might like