Józef Mehoffer


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Polish painter and stained-glass artist, a leading representative of his country's Symbolist movement. He was born in Ropczyce, his family moving to Cracow in 1870. While still a student of art in Cracow he worked as assistant on the frescos in St Mary's Basilica. Between 1891 and 1896, he spent most of his time in Paris. Despite this his style owes much more to the Vienna Sezession, which he joined in 1896, than to advanced styles in France. In 1899 he married Jadwiga Janakowska, whose striking presence frequently graces his paintings. As an easel painter his masterpiece is The Strange Garden (1902–3, National Museum, Warsaw). This was the product of a stay in the village of Seilac, just outside Cracow. His wife and naked son walk down a country path, delicately shaded by overhanging branches, accompanied by their nursemaid. A note of fantasy is introduced by the enormous gilded dragonfly at the top of the painting. The intensity of the colour attracted early admiration. The critic Samlicki in 1912 described it as ‘a symphony of greens, yellows, gold, and sapphire’. Mehoffer's decorative gifts found an outlet in the considerable amount of work he made for churches, including stained glass and frescos.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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