Josef Herman

Two Separate Sketches for Whole Composition, Pony at Centre


Not on display

Josef Herman 1911–2000
Graphite and ink on paper
Support: 225 × 171 mm
Presented by the artist 1981

Catalogue entry

Josef Herman 1911-2000

from Studies for ‘The Pit Pony’:
Two Separate Sketches for Whole Composition, Pony at Centre c.1953-5


Pencil and ink on cream laid paper 226 x 172 (8 7/8 x 6 ¾)

Inscribed on back in pencil ‘582’ bottom right

Presented by the artist 1981

? Josef Herman: Retrospective Exhibition, Camden Arts Centre, London, January-March 1980 (85a as ‘The Pit Pony Preliminary drawings ... Sheet of two studies’)

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

Like Two Separate Sketches for Whole Composition, Pony at Right (T03195), the drawings of Two Separate Sketches for Whole Composition, Pony at Centre show Josef Herman exploring compositional alternatives for his painting The Pit Pony 1958-9 (T00354). It is not clear whether these sheets were worked up simultaneously but the repetition of the form of the pony indicates that it was already fixed as an element. On this sheet it is established as the central detail; it would be reduced in size in the painting even as it retained this position. Here the pony appears most hieratic and archaic in its simplicity. Both sketches balance the figures around its presence. The handler and a standing figure at the roadside on the right (a position assumed by the handler in the companion sheet), off-set the bulk of the seated figure established in other sketches including Reclining Miner (T03196). One notable difference (also found in the companion bi-partite drawing) is the presence of the tip in the top sketch being left out of that below.

While the two sketches on this sheet are otherwise essentially the same in detail, the handling is subtly different. The preliminary pencil drawing on the upper sketch appears to have been urgent rather than precise, as is seen in the pony’s head. The whole is quite roughly handled, with the marking of the road and the shading of the figures scrubbed-in in places. This contrasts with the lighter and more controlled touch of the lower sketch, where the reclining miner is simply outlined in ink, the ground plane is more open, and the washes on the pony and standing figures more graded.

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


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