Josef Herman was born in Warsaw. His refugee journey began with a brief spell in Belgium and France before he came to the UK in 1940, and then to South Wales where he arrived in 1944. He lived and worked there until 1955. It was in South Wales that he built his reputation as an artist, with his paintings of Welsh miners as the archetypal working man. In the early 1960s he also painted the dancers and rehearsals of the Kirov ballet. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy in 1990. His work is in the Tate and many other public collections.