A woman in the doorway of No. 171

Born Zurich, Switzerland 1898, arrived Australia 1937, died Sydney 1993


Sali Yakubowitsch Herman began his art training in Europe, studying at the Zurich Technical School (1914–16) and in Paris (1920–23) where he was exposed to emerging European modernism and the work of artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. Fleeing the rise of fascism in Europe, Herman arrived in Australia in 1937 where he enrolled at the George Bell School, Melbourne and began experimenting and developing a personal style.

He moved to Sydney the following year and began the work that he is best known for, paintings of terrace houses, narrow lanes and working class areas of inner city Sydney which are imbued with a sense of beauty and humanity. His technique of scraping and roughly building the paint surface, seen in A woman in the doorway of No. 171, imitated the textures he was depicting and imparted an energy and liveliness.

In 1941 Herman enlisted in the Army and in 1945 was appointed as an official war artist in the Pacific, working for several months in New Guinea. Herman won the Wynne prize for landscape painting in 1944, 1962 and 1965, and the Sulman Prize in 1946 and 1948. He was the subject of a major retrospective held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1981, and has been included in other national exhibitions. His work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Australian War Memorial, all major state galleries, many regional galleries and other public collections.