Instytut Historii Sztuki <Posen> [Editor]
Artium Quaestiones — 15.2004

Page: 95
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Tak zwana natura jest zawsze dekoracyjna, tylko musi być oglądana okiem ar-
tysty inteligentnego, który potrafi wyciągnąć z niej walory dekoracyjne. Po pro-
stu trzeba mu wykraść tajemnice dekoracyjności naturze94. I jakie by nie były
drogi, którymi dostać się chcemy przed zasłoniętą twarz „Sztuki” - i jakie by nie
były zagadnienia artystyczne, które nas niewolą - kołem zaklętym, którego nie
opuszczamy jest studnia ziejąca, której nie zasypiemy, jest ta wiecznie niepoko-
jąca sprawa: stosunek sztuki do natury95.

The early work of youth, with its characteristic attempts to find one’s own way,
is often a search for the artist’s specific means of expression, compatible with his or
her temperament. This also refers to the early work of the young Józef Mehoffer, for
whom a key issue was his own idea of the relationship between art and nature.
Mehoffer tried to come to grips with the eternal question of this relation both as
a painter and as a theorist. In the early stage of his career he wrote three theoretical
texts: two unpublished, kept now in the manuscript department of the Ossolineum in
Wroclaw („Reflections on Art” [Rozważania o sztuce], 1893; “Philosophy in Art” [Filo-
zofia w sztuce], 1895), and one published in Przegląd Polski, titled “Remarks on Art
and Its Relationship to Nature” [Uwagi o sztuce i jej stosunku do natury], 1896.
However, Mehoffer’s ideas about transposing reality onto the canvas could be traced
in his paintings before they actually appeared or in print. Practice came before
theory, the pen followed the brush, and verbal declarations were evidently rooted in
the young artist’s experience. In the process of their meticulous analysis, composi-
tions which seem to have nothing to do with the link between art and nature reveal
their self-reflexive aspects and can be approached as the first evidence of Mehoffer’s
still tenuous beliefs as regards the general relationship of painting and reflected
reality. The question of the relation of art and nature, understood both as natural
environment and as reality, is connected with the problems of illusion, truth, and
make-believe in art. Facing particular artistic tasks, Mehoffer was bound to make
his decisions and resolutions which led him toward his own artistic identity and
attempts at self-definition as a painter.
Mehoffer’s early oeuvre includes works which address the problem of self-
reflexivity directly, putting it in the foreground as the central issue. His first clearly
self-reflexive painting, virtually a painting about painting, is a design of a Cracow
theater curtain of 1891/1892. Both early unpublished texts mentioned above touch

94 J. Mehoffer, Działanie dekoracyjne natury, rkps w zbiorach Ossolineum we Wro-
cławiu, sygn. 12788/11.
95 Idem, Stosunek sztuki do natury jako do podniety zewnętrznej, 1922-1924, rkps
w zbiorach Ossolineum we Wrocławiu, sygn. 12785/11, s. 145-153.
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