Biography

Birth date: 12 February 1898
Birth place: Switzerland: Zurich
Death date: 03 April 1993
Death place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Final rank: Lieutenant
Service number: VX138789 - Second World War, 1939-1945

Sali Herman was born in Switzerland in 1898. During the 1930s many artists like Herman came to Australia to escape the Fascist dictatorships of Europe, bringing new ideas about art and culture with them. He arrived in Melbourne in 1937 and studied briefly at the George Bell School, advocates of mild experimentation along the lines of early European modernists such as Cezanne. While living in Paris Herman had seen the work of many significant modern artists, including Van Gogh, Manet and Courbet.

Herman enlisted in the Army in 1941 and was assigned to the First Camouflage Section. He later became a sergeant with the 3rd Royal Australian Engineers Training Battalion at Kapooka. He was appointed an official war artist in 1945 and worked in the Pacific for five months, recording scenes in Lae, Torokina, Bougainville and Rabaul. During this time he did many field sketches, which formed the basis of the 26 paintings he submitted to the Memorial.

Herman is best known for his paintings of inner-city streets and slums around Sydney, which he did before and after the war. He was a keen observer of his surroundings and was able to translate the essence of a scene into paint using geometric blocks of form, pattern and contrasts for dramatic effect.

After the war Herman had a successful career as a painter, exhibited widely and won several major prizes. He received the Wynne Prize three times and the Sulman Prize twice, first in 1946 with Natives carrying wounded soldiers, a painting he produced as an official war artist.

Rolls and Awards

Collection Items

Photograph

089286

MELBOURNE, VIC. 1945-05-15. CAPTAIN S. HERMAN, OFFICIAL WAR ARTIST.

089286

096040

AT SEA OFF RABAUL, NEW BRITAIN. 1945-09-06. THE MILITARY HISTORY FIELD TEAM, WHICH COVERED THE JAPANESE SURRENDER CEREMONY ON BOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER HMS GLORY, FACE THE CAMERA, AFTER TRANSFERRING TO HMS AMETHYST. IDENTIFIED PERSONNEL ARE:- SERGEANT R.E. RICE, STILL CAMERAMAN (1); LIEUTENANT S....

096040

Art

Camp at Rabaul

Depicts a camp at Rabaul by moonlight.

ART22835

Graves of some native soldiers

Herman depicts five white-painted crosses carved by natives, surrounded by grass and flowers.

ART22836

The road to Buin, South Bougainville

Depicts a scene of natives building corduroy road through jungle, often in extreme conditions of heat and torrential rain. Hundreds of natives, some chopping trees and splitting wood, others laying them across the track. Wearing coloured lap-laps they made a very impressive and colourful show.

ART22837

Waiting room, air transport, Finschhafen

Australian Military Forces, airfield waiting room, Finschhafen, New Guinea. 'I made the sketch to this painting about the middle of June 45. At that time [Finschhafen] was most likely one of the busiest airports in the world, quite a contrast to when I saw it after the surrender, when it seemed...

ART22838

Japanese ship blasted out of the sea, Lae

The painting depicts a Japanese ship grounded a few miles outside Lae, New Guinea. The ship the 'Myoko Maru' (also called the 'Malahang wreck') was in direct line with the airstrip at Lae so Australian airmen used it as a landmark on their bombing runs. The Japanese placed some anti aircraft guns...

ART22839

Liberated Indians, Rabaul

'Soon after our landing at Rabaul we liberated our allied prisoners. Of these there were a great number of Indians who were in a state of misery and starvation, some mere skeletons with big staring eyes. In this paining I show some at a hospital. I tried to convey their horror.' Sali Herman,...

ART22840

Soldier in dugout

Australian soldier in improvised shelter or dugout. 'I made the sketch while living there at Battalion Headquarters (15 Australian Infantry Battalion, 29 Brigade). The small space, covered with some heavy timber and a tent flap against rain, give a very oppressive feeling, still more so because of...

ART22841

Battlefield, South Bougainville

This picture shows what bombing and artillery fire made the jungle look like, yet our men were living in dug-outs covered with heavy timber and a few painted tent flaps. On the day the artist sketched the scene it was just after a surprise attack by the Japanese. They come down at dawn, sixty men...

ART22842

Crashed fighter plane

This plane was returning from a raid and about to land when it crashed at the end of the Torokina airstrip. The pilot was killed. It is a Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft.

ART22843

Native compound at Lae

Native compound, Lae.

ART22844

POW compound, Torokina

The artist painted this picture before the surrender. At that time there were only about eight prisoners in the compound. A whitish-looking dead tree, with angular branches against the background was standing there like a symbol of a gallows.

ART22845

Unloading boats at Torokina

The artist painted this picture because it shows a scene of important activity and the close co-operation between the Australias and Americans. It shows two landing ships tanks, Torokina, Bougainville.

ART22846

Carrier pigeons at Toko

Depicts carrier pigeons in clearing in the jungle at Toko, 3rd Australian Division, Bougainville.

ART22847

Parade of Papuan police boys

Depicts a group of Papuan Police boys at a native compound outside Torokina, Bougainville.

ART22848

Kana Suai, Bougainville

Constable Kana Suani, RPC (under heavy enemy fire rescued Lieutenant A Roodakoff, 31/51 Btn, Roodakoff, 31/51 Btn, who was severely wounded).

ART22849

Japanese prisoner, (Bougainville)

Portrait of a Japanese soldier at Bougainville, New Guinea. 'At this time prisoners were very scarce and our Intelligence objected for reasons of their own to portraying any of them. The one I painted came into our line (Headquarters 15 Australian Infantry Battalion, 39 Brigade, 3 Division) and...

ART22850

Two fresh graves, South Bougainville

These are the graves of V121019 Private Eric Charles Young, AMF, and NX179388 Private Henry Charles Hanratty, AIF, both killed in action and buried on Bougainville Island, New Guinea. The artist stated that both men were killed on the same day but official records show that Young was killed on 2...

ART22851

Chapel service at Toko

Toko; 3rd Australian Division; service in improvised chapel in jungle

ART22852

Natives carrying wounded

This work was painted in the studio from sketches made in either Bougainville or New Britain. The painting possesses a powerful and dramatic sense of movement. The viewer is drawn into the picture and carried along with the stretcher bearers. The sturdy limbs, bright coloured clothing, upright...

ART22885

Japanese ack-ack guns ready for surrender, New Britain

After the surrender the Japanese assembled arms and equipment to hand it over. Reviewing the area outside Rabaul the artist noticed the Ack-Ack guns covered with tarpaulines, looking like eagles in rows.

ART22887

Camp of Indian prisoners, Rabaul

Depicts camp in jungle for Indian prisoners of Japanese. The Japanese put the camps mostly into gullies so they could watch them better from the top. The huts were put up in a circular disposition. While one could only feel pity and horror at the sight of the starved, sick and crippled prisoners...

ART22888

Jacquinot Bay

Still at Jacquinot Bay, New Guinea.

ART22889

Rabaul Harbour

Depicts Rabaul Harbour.

ART22890

Burial of a soldier

A group of Australian soldiers burying a dead comrade in a jungle clearing in New Guinea.

ART22891

Surrender

Sali Herman witnessed the surrender of General Imamura Hitoshi, commander of the Japanese Eight Army, at Rabaul, New Guinea, and later painted the scene. Despite his compassion for the defeated Japanese, Herman could not forgive their commanders: "[Imamura's] attitude was still arrogant, maybe a...

ART22892

Back home

A returning soldier and a woman embracing at the docks in Sydney as others leave the area to catch waiting buses. On the left a wounded serviceman sits while on the right, part of a troopship can be seen. Dock buildings are in the background.

ART22893

Soldiers conversing at Leave and Transit Depot

Depicts a group of unidentified soldiers at Leave and Transit Depot, Sydney.

ART22902

0630 hours

Depicts a dawn parade at Kapooka of unidentified soldiers.

ART28456

Study for 'The road to Buin, South Bougainville'

Study for natives building corduroy road through jungle, often in extreme conditions of heat and torrential rain. Hundreds of natives, some chopping trees and splitting wood, others laying them across the track. See ART22837.

ART28555

Study for Japanese prisoner, Bougainville

Depicts a sketch of an unidentified Japanese soldier sitting on the ground. The artist's humanity is well evident in Japanese prisoner, bougainville, a quick drawing made early one morning when a young Japanese soldier emerged from the jungle near the artist's camp.

ART28561

Kapooka Camp near Wagga Wagga

Kapooka Camp near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.

ART29493

Kapooka Camp

Depicts an Australian landscape with soldiers at a make-shift encampment of white tents, surrounded by gum trees. A small dog appears in the foreground of the painting. At Kapooka army camp, recruits received complete and realistic war training in 14 weeks. First they learnt squad and rifle drill,...

ART92141

Between two trains

A view of the Albury Railway Station looking down the platform with a central vanishing point. Groups of soldiers are waiting with their luggage along the platform, and two trains pass them on either side. The lace metalwork and ornate lights of the station roof are emphasised. In wartime Australia...

ART93997

Sali Herman : official war artist

Poster advertising a Sali Herman exhibition at the Australian War Memorial form December 1981 to May 1982. The poster shows an image of one of Sali Herman's paintings 'Back Home', that is held in the Memorials Collection. The poster also shows the Medals Sali Herman received for his services as an...

ARTV09034

Sound

Sali Herman, war artist

Sali Herman, war artist

S00490

Timeline

Date of birth 1898-02-12
Date of discharge 1946-04-11
Date of death 1993-04-03