Josef Herman

Two Women Weeding


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Josef Herman 1911–2000
Graphite and gouache on paper
Support: 559 × 765 mm
Presented by Curwen Studio 1976

Catalogue entry

Josef Herman 1911-2000

Two Women Weeding 1965


Gouache and pencil on cartridge paper 560 x 764 (22 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

According to the artist’s account reported in an earlier catalogue entry,[1] Two Women Weeding was made in response to a commission for lithographs from Robert Erskine (of the St George’s Gallery and co-founder of the Curwen Studio). The sheet was marked up with positional crosses at all four margins in anticipation of this process. For reasons that are not entirely clear, it was abandoned while the contemporary designs Study for ‘In the Mountains’ (T02095) and Study for ‘Dusk’ (T02096) were made into lithographs with Figure against Dark Sky (P06278) as a third. It appears to be the least resolved of the group, with the black and brown forms of the women laid over the ultramarine setting in broken blocks, alleviated only by the white of the headscarf (tinted with brown) and rubbed-back areas at the centre and the right.

In common with these three other images, however, Two Women Weeding shares the concerns with a concentration on the physical tasks of working on the land. The characteristic doubling over of the two women in their relentless labour makes monumental forms which fill the composition. These poses recur in Herman’s drawings of peasants and workers across the world, from Wales and Mexico to Spain where, it may be assumed by association with the other images, the preliminary drawing was probably made. The replacement of the women by Figure against Dark Sky suggests both an identity between the two activities of tending the land, but also a recognition of the greater drama and an implicit hierarchy in the image of a man resting on his spade.

Matthew Gale
December 1998

[1] Josef Herman, conversation 16 February 1977, Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1976-8, London 1979, p.90

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