Jun 11, 2017

Wlastimil Hofman: Gay Polish Artist

Wlastimil Hofman (1881-1970), was born in Prague but spent all of his life in Krakow,  except for studying in Paris and the period 1942-1945, when he fled both the Nazis and the Soviets and ended up in Tel Aviv.

He was one of the most famous painters in Poland, specializing in religious topics such as "The Way of the Rosary" and "The Way of the Cross," but in his youth he was heavily influenced by the symbolist movement.

The street he lived on has been renamed Hofman Street in his honor.

Although he was married to a woman throughout his life, he has a considerable gay connection.  For one thing, he changed his name from the Czech Vlastimil to the Polish Wlastimil due to his friendship with painter Jacek Malczewski (1854-1919).

In 1914, he met Jiri Karasek ze Lvovich (1871-1951), a Czech literary critic, occultist, and author of several gay-themed novels, such as Sodoma (1895) and A Gothic Soul (1900), as well as collection of homoerotic poetry.  Hofman began painting homoerotic scenes, which were displayed privately among Karasek's friends.  They display naked young men, humans, mythological figures, and gods, wandering an eerie desolate landscape of archetypes and dreams.

The Return (1918) shows a man or angel taking off his human costume and releasing the horse that brought him to this world,w hile two satyrs watch.

I'm not sure about the age of the male figure, so I censored his sex organs.

Lost Happiness (1919) shows two satyrs leading an angel away toward a world of Dionysian pleasures of the flesh, his celestial joy dying.

Bird's Funeral (1918), an allegory with a human boy and a satyr, again shows celestial joys dimming and dying in the face of carnality.

Poetry and Nature (1923) shows three mythological beings fascinated by the sight of a mother dog and her puppies. Nature, birth and death, reproduction, is alien to their world.

Untitled (1926).   Boys and gods are burying something or someone.  Death must come even in Arcadia.

I wonder what death Hofman was mourning in these paintings, what dark desolation was drawing him away from his celestial thoughts?  Was same-sex desire so disturbing for him?  And, if so, why did he continue to paint homoerotic images for his friend Karasek's salons?

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