In the autumn of 1907, fulfilling his dream of having a house with a garden, Józef Mehoffer purchased an 18th-century larch wood manor house in the village of Jankówka in the Pogórze Wielickie region, which he owned until 1917. It was located on a hill from which, as Jadwiga Mehoffer writes, “from above the crowns of the trees in the overgrown orchard a broad view spread out of the arcs of mountain ranges,” including the peaks of the Beskid mountains and at times even the Tatras.
The manor house was constructed with extended alcoves and was covered by a shingled hip roof. It stood on an expansive south-facing slope where Mehoffer planted a garden which descended in flowery terraces towards the orchard and opened out on a view of the landscape. The garden was dominated by typical Polish vegetation, among which one of the most characteristic elements was an oval flowerbed encircled by a ring of roses in the centre of the first terrace. “I thank God for this little scrap of land of my own which allows me the contact with nature so essential for a creative imagination,” wrote the artist of his garden.
The residence in Jankówka was for Józef Mehoffer and his wife a place for entertaining friends. They were frequently visited by Karol Hubert Rostworowski, and also enjoyed the company of Ferdynand Ruszczyc, Karol Maszkowski, Egon Petri, Zygmunt Dygat, Ludwik Solski and Zenon Przesmycki (Miriam), who described the artist’s home as “an enchanted fairytale.”
This “magical” character is suggested by the landscape Manor house in Jankówka, most probably painted around 1910. And among the many representations of the place painted by Mehoffer, this view of the house inundated in flowers from the point of view of the garden conveys a special sense of intimacy. A minor event captured on this canvas – a meeting of two cats on the garden path – rises in this setting to the level of something remarkable, something which could take place in a fairytale. It is this motif that provided the painting with its original title, mentioned by Jadwiga Mehoffer in her description of the piece:
“On a path meandering its way towards the terrace, a Meeting of Cats is portrayed. The larger of the two, Maciek, the pretty one with black stripes on pale grey fur, is coming up the path towards his delicately patterned black brother, Czarcik, and, as the cats are never entirely certain of their mutual feelings for each other, each is tentatively extending its nose towards the other. This takes place on a background of blossoming dahlias, towering sunflowers, and long-stemmed roses. In the background, a fragment of the house can be seen with the veranda draped in wisteria dangling from the notched fascia board of the roof.”.
One of the cats portrayed, Czarcik, appears in several photos from Jankówka which show Jadwiga and Józef Mehoffer with their son Zbigniew.
The showing of this painting will be complemented by four other Mehoffer compositions portraying the garden in Jankówka, which are on permanent display at the biographical museum located in the artist’s home: the landscapes Storm in spring (1915) and Red umbrella (1917), the allegorical scene Poland in the Great War (1917), and the famed Symbolist etching The Bold Gardener (1912).
Exhibition Curator/Coordinator - dr Beata Studziżba-Kubalska
Exhibition Designer - Ewa Morzyniec