Painter and draughtsman Josef Herman was born into a Jewish, working-class family in Warsaw, Poland on 3 January 1911. He studied at the Warsaw School of Art and Decoration (1930-31), and first exhibited in his native city in 1932. Following increasing anti-Semitism, he left Poland for Brussels in 1938, where he was inspired by the Belgian Expressionists. With the onset of the Second World War, he was forced to flee via southern France and arrived in Glasgow in 1940, where he was reunited with fellow Polish artist Jankel Adler, whom he had known briefly in Warsaw. Together the two artists contributed, together with Scottish Colourist J D Fergusson, to a resurgence of the Scottish arts scene during this period. Herman moved briefly to London in 1943, exhibiting at the Lefevre Galleries, London (with L S Lowry, 1943) prior to his relocation to the Welsh mining village of Ystradgynlais (1944-55), which gave rise to his best-known body of work focusing on the Welsh miners and their community. In 1951 he was included in the South Bank Festival of Britain Exhibition and continued to exhibit widely including with the émigré art dealers Roland, Browse & Delbanco (1946, 1948, 1952, then regularly until 1975), in London, with Ben Uri (including alongside Martin Bloch in 1949), at the Geffrye Museum (with Henry Moore, 1954), the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1956) and Camden Arts Centre (1980), as well as at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (1989), Abbot Hall, Kendal (2005), and many further exhibitions with Flowers and Flowers East Galleries, who represented him for many years.

Josef Herman died in London, England on 19 February 2000. His work is represented in numerous UK public collections including London (Tate, V&A), Wales (National Museum), Scotland (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art); as well as in Canada, Australia, Israel, South Africa and New Zealand. An exhibition exploring his early years in Warsaw, Brussels, Glasgow and London, 1938-43 was held at Ben Uri Gallery in 2011.