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The painter — a small-bodied young man with the look of an intellectual — represented himself in the form of a bust portrait in a foreground, against a neutral background. He looks at us attentively through his pince-nez. Although portrayed principally en face, he is marked by a lively posture, manifesting itself in an asymmetrical position of Mehoffer's shoulders, the artist's head being slightly turned to the right, with his face being somewhat turned in the opposite direction.

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The painter — a small-bodied young man with the look of an intellectual — represented himself in the form of a bust portrait in a foreground, against a neutral background. He looks at us attentively through his pince-nez. Although portrayed principally en face, he is marked by a lively posture, manifesting itself in an asymmetrical position of Mehoffer's shoulders, the artist's head being slightly turned to the right, with his face being somewhat turned in the opposite direction. The light coming from above illuminates his ginger, somewhat dishevelled mop and his forehead; it lights up on the frames of his pince-nez and cheek, omitting the area of the lips shadowed by a moustache, particularly brightening the whiteness of the front of his shirt. The composition is kept in a palette of ochre with clear black and white accents. Note the ease of brushwork; the strokes of the brush express both the model's external look and his spiritual sensitivity.
The 1897 date beside the signature leaves no doubt about the time of creation. Mehoffer was 28 years old at the time and had just returned to Kraków after several years in Paris (1891–1896) filled with studies and intensive work, the fruit of which was a great deal of paintings and, especially, a victory in the contest for stained glass in the cathedral in Fribourg, Switzerland. In the Paris years, self-portraiture was an important area of Mehoffer's artistic quest.
At that time, he painted a few bust self-portraits and a series of studies in which he presented himself entirely on a chair in his studio. Those works include small pencil drawings, an oil sketch, and a large finely finished charcoal drawing (in a private collection today). Some of those works show the easel and other elements of the interior.
Although restricted to the bust only, this piece was painted on the basis of sketches and is undoubtedly another step forward in the artist's studies on full-figure oil self-portraits, absent from the painter's oeuvre at the time.

Elaborated by Anna Zeńczak (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Photography of Wyspiański and Mehoffer

In the collection of the Museum of Ziemia Biecka in Biecz, there is a unique photo from 1889, depicting the students of the second year of thethen School of Fine Arts (today’s Academy of Fine Arts) in Kraków, during an educational trip around the regions of Sądecczyzna and Biecz under the supervision of Prof. Władysław Łuszkiewicz.

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St. Wyspiański, J. Mehoffer, Maszkowski
and Cinciel in the church in Libusza, 1889.
From Museum of Ziemia Biecka in Biecz.

In the collection of the Museum of Ziemia Biecka in Biecz, there is a unique photo from 1889, depicting the students of the second year of thethen School of Fine Arts (today’s Academy of Fine Arts) in Kraków, during an educational trip around the regions of Sądecczyzna and Biecz under the supervision of Prof. Władysław Łuszkiewicz. The photograph was taken inside the church in Libusza, located seven kilometres from Biecz. The figure staring at us, the first person from the left, is Stanisław Wyspiański. Standing next to him, sketching some element of the church’s furnishings is Józef Mehoffer.

The participants of the trip arrived at Biecz on 2 August 1889. They stayed at the monastery of the Franciscans of Primitive Observance. From there, they left for nearby towns, looking for themes on which to base their sketches. Biecz alone fascinated Wyspiański so much that, six years later, he became involved in renovation works at the local parish.

More on Stanisław Wyspiański’s links with Biecz here.

 

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums), 
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland.

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Self-portraits and “selfie” fashion ... The puzzle of the self-portrait

Currently, there is a fashion for self-portraits, popularly called selfies. Anyone can take them — using not even a camera — just a telephone. There is a narcissistic craving in us to show and see our own images. Once, creating a self-portrait was a process. Self-portraiture created the possibility of immortalising one’s image, while fulfilling the function of a tool of self-knowledge and self-reflection.

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Currently, there is a fashion for self-portraits, popularly called selfies. Anyone can take them — using not even a camera — just a telephone. There is a narcissistic craving in us to show and see our own images. Once, creating a self-portrait was a process. Self-portraiture created the possibility of immortalising one’s image, while fulfilling the function of a tool of self-knowledge and self-reflection. This served to explore one’s “I”, to encode information about oneself or play some kind of game with convention … to hide behind an image (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz). This took various forms. An example of a multiple self-portrait is the painting by Pola Dwurnik: Mercy!. Out of the crowd outlined in the background, twenty-four images of the artist emerge; she is in a different mood and mental state in each.
The earliest known self-portrait was probably created in Egypt, around 2650 BC (Ni-ankh-Ptah). Self-portraiture was a rare phenomenon in antiquity (the self-portrait of Phidias, on the shield of Athena Parthenos, in the Parthenon in Athens). The Middle Ages saw the creation of idealized self-portraits; the author often painted himself as an individual assisting in a religious scene. An independent self-portrait appeared in the Renaissance as a result of raising the artist’s prestige and increasing the role of human individuality. According to the humanism of the Renaissance, the artist had become someone special, which is why artists often painted themselves turned towards the viewer (e.g. Albrecht Dürer).
Many artists painted self-portraits almost all their lives, thus creating cycles of their likenesses, including, among others, Olga Boznańska and Stanisław Wyspiański. In the case of Olga Boznańska, self-portraits are not only a reflection of the passage of time, but also the changing personality of the artist. The self-portrait of Józef Mehoffer is a faithful record of mood and moment; it reflects the intimate nature of the situation. One can even have the impression that it has the form of a sketch. Julian Fałat chose an unusual form of self-portrait; by blending his effigy into the Kraków panorama, Jan Matejko painted his self-portrait on a painting base in the shape of a circle.
Artists reveal themselves in a variety of different ways. It is typical to be presented at work, in a studio, or with family or friends (Stanisław Wyspiański with his wife). It also happens that they present themselves as historical, biblical, or mythological figures (Maurycy Gottlieb). The true master of this manner of self-presentation was Jacek Malczewski, author of the greatest number of self-portraits in the history of Polish art. Looking at them, it is hard not to suspect him of narcissism, but maybe this is just a sophisticated game with the viewer, a kind of planned show?
More self-portraits by Jacek Malczewski can be found in the following photo gallery: http://mnk.pl/fotogalerie/autoportrety-jacka-malczewskiego.

 

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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Painting “Józef Mehoffer self-portrait”

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