Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Józef Mehoffer

Allegory of Saving, 1933, Jozef Mehoffer, stained glass, KOMK Bank, Krakow, Poland.                    
Jozef Mehoffer Self-portrait, 1937
One of the difficulties of writing daily about various artists few people have ever heard of, from countries almost as unfamiliar, is the quandary of whether to highlight an artist simply because the art of his or her country is so under appreciated, even though that artist may not actually be of any great standing on an international basis. Moreover, the opposite problem exists as well, in which a particular country has so many outstanding artists, often with an international following, that certain other excellent artists from that country have simply gotten lost in the crowd. I suppose that's to be expected among French, English, Italian, German, and even American artists. What's surprising is, the same thing happens regarding artists from lesser known countries such as Poland, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, and several others. Poland is an excellent example. I've written about so many Polish artists I'm almost embarrassed to pop up yet another one, yet, like all the others I've delved into, Josef Mehoffer, though dead since 1946, needs the exposure. He's barely known outside of Poland, yet his home in Krakow had been well preserved by his descendants and turned into a museum displaying his work. To my way of thinking, once an artist attains that level of recognition in his own country, he deserves more than a blank look and the question "who?" when his name is mentioned.
Furniture Lottery for Matejko’s House,1899, Jozef Mehoffer
Portrait of the Artist's Wife,
1907, Jozef Mehoffer
If you haven't realized it by this time, I should point out that Josef Mehoffer was more than simply a painter. He was equally adept at stained glass (top) and any number of other decorative arts. He excelled at painting, to be sure, especially in painting himself and his wife (right), but we won't hold that against him. In fact, it's a common trait among painters. But as the poster advertisement above would indicate, he also had a handle on the Art Nouveau style so popular around the turn of the century. (Did they actually sell furniture by lottery back then?) An artist in that day, and in a small city like Krakow had to be versatile. Though Krakow wasn't what you'd call an artistic backwater, neither was it Paris, London, or Rome where an artist might have the freedom to concentrate on a single medium, content area, or style. A provincial artist such as Mehoffer played the market, learning the skills to take on whatever came his way in terms of creative and financial opportunities.
Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, Freiburg, Switzerland, 1895-1936, Jozef Mehoffer
Christ before Pilate,
1933, Jozef Mehoffer
Jozef Mehoffer was born in 1869. Though Polish, his family was of Austrian ancestry. He studied, first in Krakow, later in Vienna and Paris developing an expertise in portraits, graphic art, stained glass, textiles, chalk drawings, etchings, and book illustrations. He even designed theater sets and furniture. With all these skills, Mehoffer first gained acclaim around 1895, when he was commissioned to design the stained glass windows for the Gothic St. Nicholas Collegiate Church (above) in Fribourg, Switzerland. It was a project that was to occupy him sporadically for the next forty years. Mehoffer's work was so popular that for much of his career he did little but stained glass (top). Painting became something of a sideline, whenever he could find the time.

The Mehoffer home and museum, Krakow, Poland.
Descent from the Cross,
1933, Jozef Mehoffer
Mehoffer was not just a successful artist, he became quite wealthy as his mansion-home (above, now a museum) would indicate. Later in his career, as he grew comfortable financially, Mehoffer became interested in the Medieval style of painting, as he produced a lengthy series of works depicting Christ's journey from the court of Pilate (above, left) to his Descent from the Cross (right). In later years, Mehoffer's paintings also encompassed various scenes of Krakow (bottom) and his home life. He was in the enviable position of being able to paint for himself, rather than at the behest of others.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus,
1911, Jozef Mehoffer
The Sun of May, 1911,
Jozef Mehoffer
The Market of Krakow, 1903, Jozef Mehoffer


No comments:

Post a Comment