One of our pocket squares from 'artworks collection', in cooperation with National Muzeum in Warsaw.
Painting: "The Strange Garden" collection of the National Muzeum in Warsaw
Painter: Józef Mehoffer
The Strange Garden by Józef Mehoffer is decidedly a composition transgressing the category of a portrait depicting the artist’s loved ones. It was painted during his summer holidays in 1902 in Siedlec, a village near Kraków, where the artist went with his family. Mehoffer finished it in 1903, as the signature says. During the three subsequent years, it was publicly displayed in Vienna, St. Louis, Chicago, and Munich, where it gained the appreciation of the jurors and official awards.
The canvas depicts three people: the artist’s wife, his son, and their nanny. The axis of the composition is set by the diagonal created by the alley running into the garden. The figures emerge from the orchard alley shadowed by crowns of apple trees and approach the viewer, stepping into an open clearing dazzling with sun. The viewer’s attention is drawn by the lit figure of the naked child, cautiously treading on the soft grass, and carrying long peduncles of pink-red hollyhocks. The child is the ‘guide’ of the walk. The sun-lit boy is gleaming with reflected light exacerbating his childish charm and innocence. He is followed by the mother dressed in an elegant sapphire dress and a hat. Portrayed on the edge of the orchard, she is partially hooded in deep shadow. The lower parts of her dress are lit by the bright sun, the ruckles of the shiny fabrics are glimmering. Her head is raised and slightly tilted and she is looking in the direction or the viewer, or rather her husband, the painter. In her left hand she holds the abundant ruckles of her dress, and her right hand reaches for a branch thickly covered with fruit. In the background the viewer can see the nanny, wearing a traditional costume of the region of Kraków, and lit by a few rays of sun shining through the crowns of trees.