Born in Transylvania (now part of Romania) Herman Wald found refuge in South Africa in 1937. One of eight children of Rabbi Jacob Meir Wald, his artistic talent was recognised early and he studied and worked in Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, Paris and London.
Although his talent and ability was appreciated in Europe as a distinguished representative of 20th century modernism, he has received surprisingly little recognition in this country. Despite participating in numerous group and solo exhibitions and being awarded important commissions, including the Impala fountain and the Yom Hashoah Memorial at Park Cemetery in Johannesburg, he is relatively unknown both to the Jewish public and the art cognoscenti.
It is incomprehensible how both during his lifetime and after his death, Wald has been undeservedly ignored in South Africa, his work marginalised and forgotten. No monograph has appeared on his work, nor does he feature in any prominent compendium of South African artists.
In order to remedy this unjustified omission, his youngest son Louis sponsored a retrospective exhibition of some of his father’s work at the South African Jewish Museum from February to July 2012 in which I was involved. It was curated by Hayden Proud and entitled The Wings of the Shechinah: the Sculptural art of Herman Wald.
It was envisioned that the exhibition would be accompanied by a catalogue with an overview of his life by this author with chapters by the art historians Andrea Lewis (on sensuality in Herman Wald’s sculpture), Devis Iosifzohn (on Wald’s Israeli themes) and Elizabeth Rankin (on Herman Wald’s naturalist style).
Sadly, the catalogue never appeared and although this exhibition gained for Herman Wald’s work well-merited recognition, it was short-lived. Louis Wald has, however, meticulously documented his father’s œuvre with the unpublished catalogue chapters together with a vast diversity of documents, interviews and films on the website www.hermanwald.com.
The online exhibition that follows aims to draw additional and lasting attention to the life and work of this exceptional artist. It provides a coherent and chronological overview seen within the perspective of his time on the art historical map together with an interpretation of his work. He can now be allotted his rightful place both in the history of 20th century art and within South African historiography.
I would like to thank Prof. Mendelsohn for his encouragement and assistance and for putting me in touch with Libby Young, whose dedication, professionalism and creative skill in the layout of this website publication has added so much value to this publication.
My gratitude also goes to Lloyd Pollack who contributed textually to the descriptions of the genre figures. His encouragement, interest, advice and active help with the manuscript was invaluable. Special thanks are due to him for reading and enriching the text, especially the descriptions of the selected sculptures in Part II.
I should also like to thank the following: Gwynne Robins-Schrire for editing the manuscript and for her scholarly input and tireless encouragement of the research; Jacqui Rodgers, Head Librarian of the Jacob Gitlin Library, for giving me access to the sources on Herman Wald in the Library’s collection; Prof. Cedric Ginsberg for his kind advice on archive resources on Herman Wald; and my daughter Ingrid Pieters for her tireless encouragement and enthusiasm to keep the memory of Herman Wald alive.
Ute Ben Yosef. (August 2019)