Biography Summary

Herman Wald (1906 - 1970) was a South African sculptor. He was born in Hungary and studied in Budapest, Vienna, Berlin and London. He moved to South Africa in 1937 where he lived and worked until his death.

He was responsible for many large public works in South Africa at least two of which are perhaps peerless in significance: the memorial to the Six Million in West Park Jewish Cemetery and the Stampede in central Johannesburg. He also created almost 400 other works that are in collections around the world.

Reflecting his origins, his domicile and age, the subject of his works include the Bible, Africa, Jews of Eastern Europe, portraiture, love, the family and anti-war themes. He made works for public spaces, homes, synagogues and theatres, modelling mostly but sometimes carving.

Biographical Notes

He was born in Cluj, Hungary in 1906, to Rabbi Jacob and Pearl Wald.  One of 8 children, he grew up in an atmosphere of old-world Jewish Orthodoxy, in the Chassidic tradition.  The Jewish learning which he received from his father and religious teachers left a deep impression on his life and work.

When he became interested in carving shapes and figures, he came into conflict with his father, to whom the religious injunction against graven images was a meaningful issue.  So he continued his carving and modelling in secret.  But when his pride in completing the larger-than-life bust of Dr. Theodor Herzl, the founder of the modern Zionist Movement, got the better of him, he showed it to his father. The Rabbi, impressed by the work, had to concede his son's talent, and he did not oppose Herman when he announced his intention of taking up art studies in Budapest.

In 1928 he graduated from the Budapest Academy with distinction and went to Vienna to join the studio of the famous Anton Hanock.  He then went to Berlin to work and study with Totilla. The rise of Hitlerism, however, made it advisable for him to leave, and he went to Paris.  From there he went, in 1933, to London. By the end of 1933, he had obtained a post at the Working Men's College, teaching sculpture.  His own work won him praise and encouragement from Jacob Epstein.

Meanwhile, his brother, Dr. Marcus Wald, had settled in South Africa, where he was appointed Minister to the Kimberley Jewish community.  Marcus invited Herman to come to South Africa, and Herman immigrated in 1937. He settled in Johannesburg, where he established a studio, and met Vera Rosenbaum, whom he married in 1942, and had three children, Michael, Pamela and Louis.

Wald volunteered for the South African Forces in World War II and served in the Engineers' Camouflage Unit.  His war experiences led to a number of notable studies, one of which is now housed at the War Museum in Johannesburg.

On his discharge from the Army in 1944, he re-opened his studio in Johannesburg and a period of great creativity followed.  In 1952, Herman Wald left on a seven months' overseas tour, in the course of which he visited Israel, Rome, Paris, London and New York.  Here he held an exhibition at the New Gallery, West 44th Street, New York, which won him praise in the American press.  He returned to South Africa at the end of that year.

Among his many works were "Kria", memorialising the martyrdom of European Jewry - a twice life-size figure of a man rending his garments in mourning, which he created in 1949, and was erected in 1957 in the grounds of the Witwatersrand Jewish Aged Home in Sandringham.

In 1956, he created the Monument to the Martyred European Jewry, which stands in the Westpark Jewish Cemetery, Johannesburg, and was ceremoniously unveiled at a special service attended by thousands in May 1959.

In 1960, he was commissioned by Mr. Harry Oppenheimer, to design and erect two fountains in memory of his father, the late Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, one in Kimberley, the "Diamond Diggers", situated in the Oppenheimer Memorial Garden at the Kimberley Civic Center, and the other in Johannesburg - a study of leaping impala, familiarly known as the Oppenheimer Fountain, in the center of Johannesburg.

He was also commissioned to design and execute a work to adorn the Holy Arc of the new Berea Jewish Synagogue in Johannesburg. For this he created a symbolic study, "Wings of the Shechinah".

Herman Wald lies buried in the Westpark Jewish Cemetery in Johannesburg, beside the massive monument he created to Martyred European Jewry.


1906 7 July, Herman Wald born to Rabbi Jacob and Pearl Wald in Cluj, Austria-Hungary, now Kolozsvàr, Romania.
1926/27 Herman Wald studies for two semesters at the National Academy of Arts in Budapest under the Hungarian sculptor Zsygmond Kisfaludi Strobl (1884-1975).
1927 Early February, Wald transfers to Vienna to be apprenticed in the studio of the Austrian sculptor Anton Hanak (1875-1934).
1928 5 January: Death of Wald’s father Rabbi Jacob Meir Wald, most likely as the result of injuries sustained in a violent pogrom in Cluj.
1928/29 October 1928 to April 1929: Wald studies at the Department of Sculpture of the Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna under Professor Eugen Gustav Steinhof (1880-1952) with the support of the Jewish community in Cluj. He continues to work in the studio of Anton Hanak who also taught at the Kunstgewerbeschule at the time.
1930 Transfers to Berlin, working in the studio of the Chilean-born sculptor Totila Albert (1892-1967).
1933 April, Herman Wald leaves Berlin for Paris, where he resides until November.
1933 November, Herman Wald departs for London.
1934 Wald assumes position as an art teacher at the Men’s College in London.
1937 November, Wald emigrates to South Africa. Establishes a studio in Smith Street, Joubert Park, Johannesburg, where he begins to work and to teach.
1938 Featured in a group exhibition at the Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg.
1938 Participates in a group exhibition in the Gainsborough Gallery, Johannesburg.
1939 Featured in the October edition of the South African Theatre, Music and Dance Magazine.
1939 Group exhibition at the Gainsborough Gallery, Johannesburg.
1939 Group exhibition for the benefit of the South African Jewish War Appeal at the Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg.
1940 Exhibited at the Howard Shaw Gallery, East London. Showed black and white drawings. Reviewed in the “East London Daily Dispatch”.
1942 12 November, Herman Wald marries Vera Rosenbaum in Johannesburg.
1944 1 August, Wald exhibits with the SA Academy for Science and Art in a group exhibition at Johannesburg’s Duncan Hall, in which the sculptors Moses Kottler, Lippy Lipshitz and Gerard de Leeuw also participate.
1944 First solo exhibition at the Duncan Hall, Johannesburg on 13 September, opened by Barnett Potter, sub-editor of the newspaper “The Star”.
1944 Wald is discharged from the army and resumes work in his studio in Smith Street.
1945 Group exhibition at the Duncan Hall.
1946 Sculpts Kria, in reaction to learning that many family members had died in the Holocaust.
1947 Becomes a founder member of Johannesburg’s Brush and Chisel Club.
1948 Brush and Chisel Club Group exhibition in the Schweickerdt Art Gallery, Pretoria.
1949 Beaux Arts Gallery, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg, Group exhibition with the Brush and Chisel Club.
1950 Francis Moloto joins Wald’s studio as an assistant.
1951 Solo exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery.
1951 Wald creates the wood panel Sanctum for the Orthodox Synagogue in Springs, Unveiled in April.
1952 Begins ceramics phase with a kiln in his studio.
1952 Solo exhibition at the Ann Bryant Gallery, East London, opened 29 December by the Mayor, F. T. Fox.
1952 Solo exhibition in the Beaux Arts Gallery, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg, opened by Ben Ami on 19 February.
1952 Travels to Israel, Rome, London Paris and New York.Solo exhibition at the New Gallery, West 44th Street, New York, opened on 7 September. Reviewed by Steward Preston, New York Times, the Forward, and the American People’s Hungarian Newspaper, New York.
1952 Wald begins experimental ceramics phase with a kiln in his studio.
1954 Ends ceramic studio phase and outsources his further ceramic work.
1954 Farewell solo exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery, Pritchard Street, Johannesburg, opened 22 March, prior to move to new home and studio in Parktown North.
1954 Moves home and studio to 52, 6th Ave., Parktown North, Johannesburg.
1954 Solo exhibition at the Van Schaik’s Gallery, Pretoria, opened on 24 May by Prof H.M. van der Westhuyzen, Head of the Dept of History of Art, University of Pretoria.
1955 Solo exhibition at Naake’s Gallery, Bulawayo, Rhodesia. Opened 20 June by A.E. Abrahamson.
1955 Solo exhibition opened 24 March to 7 June at the Van Schaik’s Gallery, Pretoria.
1956 Commissioned by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies to create the monument to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
1957 5 to 25 September, solo exhibition at the New Gallery, Johannesburg.
1957 Kria unveiled at the Jewish Old Aged Home in Sandringham, Johannesburg.
1957 Solo exhibition in Welkom, opened on 28 November.
1959 Artists’ Choice Group Exhibition at the New Queen’s Gallery, opened 20 October. Herman Wald participates with Conquest of Space.
1959 Solo exhibition entitled The Bible in Sculpture at the New Queen’s Hall Gallery, Johannesburg, opened 13 April by Alec Gorshel, Mayor of Johannesburg.
1959 Sunday 10 May, consecration of the monument to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust at the West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg.
1960 21 October, a miniature replica of Wald’s Impala Fountain is presented to Harry Oppenheimer on the occasion of his birthday, by the then-Mayor of Johannesburg, Alec Gorshel.
1960 Diamond Diggers Fountain, unveiled at Kimberley Civic Centre in the Sir Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Garden.
1960 October, the Impala Fountain in memory of Ernest Oppenheimer in the Johannesburg city centre, is unveiled by his son Harry Oppenheimer.
1962 Wald begins to experiment with casting in fibreglass.
1963 Group exhibition at Kessel and Bolton, Johannesburg.
1964 Group exhibition at Neptune’s Court, Johannesburg.
1965 Second trip to New York, London, Rome, Paris and Israel.
1965 Workshop assistant Francis Moloto leaves Wald’s studio.
1966 Wald participates in the Republic Festival Exhibition with Jacob and the Angel.
1967 Nimrod Goge joins Wald’s studio as assistant and begins to help with The Protector.
1967 Wings of the Shechinah and other liturgical fixtures unveiled in the Berea Orthodox Synagogue, Johannesburg.
1968 The Protector, commissioned by the S.A. Mutual Life Assurance is unveiled at the Old Mutual, St. Mary’s Building, Johannesburg.
1969 Unity is Strength is unveiled in the United Building Society (UBS) in Eloff Street, Johannesburg.
1970 15-23 March, solo exhibition at the President Hotel, Johannesburg, opened by Advocate Philip Wulfsohn.
1970 July 4, Wald dies of a heart attack in Salisbury, Rhodesia (Harare, Zimbabwe) while working on a fountain commission.
1971 17-21 October, Memorial Exhibition in honour of Wald mounted by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies at the Cranbrooke Hotel, Leyds Street, Johannesburg. Opened by Advocate Philip Wulfsohn.
1976 Herman Wald Memorial Exhibition at the Sladmore Gallery, Parktown, Johannesburg 25 March - 16 April, opened by Professor G R Bozzoli, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
1979 6 December to 12 January 1980, Herman Wald Memorial Exhibition at the Morris Gallery, Johannesburg, opened by Professor Gideon Jacobs, Head of the Graduate School of Business Administration, University of the Witwatersrand.
2011 Two public sculptures installed on the Campus of the University of the Witwatersrand.
2012 Wings of the Shechinah Exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Cape Town

An Appreciation OF Herman Wald’s Work

By his son, Michael Wald 1971

Herman Wald's work, which underwent various stages of development, shows a wide variety of interests. Generally, certain themes are repeated over and over. On the one hand there are the Jewish themes, largely Biblical, and (as in the case of Adam and Eve), repeated and developed from a heavy, rather literal study, to a passionate fourth version which, though strictly figurative, takes the Biblical theme as a point of departure and results in two figures which form intrinsically stirring volumes sculpturally; and the secular Jewish way of life, represented generally far more lovably - they are almost sketches, from a past so firmly established with Wald that it needs no laboring to demonstrate its realness to him.  These are smaller works in size, not scale - depicting, in a rough but fluid texture, scenes from that past - " The Arguers"; "Tevya"; Schniftabak"; and more serious studies such as the "Blessing".

On the other hand, there is a preoccupation with universal themes broadly divisible into several sections. One, the love-theme, happily, lustily and often ethereally developed, advancing from the strictly figurative for its own sake to, over the years, a suggestion of the monolithic where the sculpture at a distance is a column or a vague spiral, closely integrating the figures which are distinguishable as such closer up; others, “Mother and child”, “Man and woman”, “Self searching”, are all similarly repeated and rethought.

Wald has also shown repeated interest in African studies, usually executed in wood, emphasizing the dignity of the Zulu warrior, and motherhood.

As a portraitist Wald's skill and sensitivity are very apparent. The portraits are often monumental in feeling, though among them are a few showing a delight for caricature where the subject seemed to ask for it.

Wald's monuments are to be seen in many South African towns, his feeling for the monumental shows in both large and small works.

Herman Wald was a man of strength and warmth - no businessman – preoccupied with human values that he attempted to express in his work. He described his work as "sculpture with a literary content", something in the manner of Jacob Epstein. But his works stands as easily untitled, to be admired for their purely sculptural quality, as much as for the messages embodied in them.

Sample Press Articles

It is the huge figure of a bearded man, 10 feet high, and is meant as a memorial to the tribulations and, sorrows of the Jews. But this "Kria", as the work is named by the sculptor, expresses more than merely national distress; the suffering, and yet defiant, face, the strong arms that rend the garment in wild despair, symbolize the futile fate of Man. Among the other sculptures to be seen and which impressed particularly, are "First Consciousness", a bronze on which Mr. Wald has worked for six years, "De Profundis", an unusually significant statue of a woman, and "Refugees" quite an outstanding small bronze, representing mother and child in our time. (FORWARD, 28-6-46)

The work of Herman Wald shows all the influences of his life's wide journey - but all fused into his own personality, so that you cannot say he works after this or that school. Impressionism is here, as well as a classical austerity; realistic portraiture, and fancy's free rein. In wood, he makes sensitive use of the grain of his material, taking his line from the line it has followed in growing; he works, that is to say, "with the material", rather than imposes an alien pattern upon it. In stone, he likes to release the form he sees latent in the material. Only in clay and plaster does he mould the preconceived figures of his imagination. His soul, conditioned by the mountains of Hungary, yearns for bigness. (JEWISH GUILD ANNUAL, October, 1951.)

"The Bible in Sculpture", an exhibition by Herman Wald which opened at the new Queens Hall Gallery (corner of Main and Plein Streets) excels not only in the drama of its subjects but as sculpture in itself. This is especially true of  "Expulsion" (from Eden) an almost abstract work of extraordinary power and tension. The two opposing forces, human and divine, combine to create a sculptural form of harmonious curves and counter curves. "Cain" intended for  bronze, is a primeval figure, gross and powerful, glowering over me great Club on which he crouches. It is tile very epitome of crude force and fascinates as it repels. It is also a prime example of the sculptor’s imaginative powers. Wald's most ambitious and most demanding work on this show is his "Twelve Tribes", which must have been a mammoth problem to design and carry out. (THE STAR, 15-4-59.)

In his big exhibition of sculpture executed in the last two years, Herman Wald shows many moods, from starkly dramatic monumental designs to compositions with gently fluid shapes. In this same "fluid" style, Wald is perhaps at his most sensitive in "Job" where spirit forms float and flow with the delicacy of softly weaving seaweed trendrills around the gaunt, stricken central figure. The artist shows a fervent even ecstatic enthusiasm, invariably using humans as the basis of his compositions, symbolically (as in "Zero Hour", in which a faceless being is ruthlessly destroying himself) or in a way that evokes dreamlike spirituality (as in "Jacobs Ladder" and "Jacob Wrestling", where strength, simplicity and delicacy all components of the flowing designs) or concentrating essentially on modified shaping as in the darkly fascinating "Embrace", in which the merged lovers are evolved with aesthetic simplification. An exhibition which shows such a variety of blended facts – brutality and sensitivity. exquisite delicacy and harshly commanding simplicity - that one easily singles out preferences.(THE STAR, 19-3-70.)

WALD, HERMAN (1906---1970), South African sculptor born in Hungary, the son of a rabbi. He settled in South Africa in 1937. Among his principal works are a monument to martyred European Jewry, "Kria," which stands at the entrance to the Witwatersrand Jewish Aged Home, Johannesburg, and a memorial to the Six Million, in the grounds of the West Park Jewish Cemetery, Johannesburg. His later works include municipal fountains and decorations for synagogues in Johannesburg and Cape Town. (Encyclopaedia Judaica)