Master ofArt Nouveau and one of the fathers ofadvertising posterMucha was also a committed and accomplished artist. Of Sarah Bernhardt à Paul Gauguinhe rubbed shoulders with the guest-stars of the Belle Epoque and forged strong links with the greatest painters of Modern Art. Quickly discover this personality as indomitable as the plant lianas, so characteristic of the Mucha style!
1 - Art and politics
Born in full Czech national revivalAlphonse Mucha (1860-1939) grew up passionately believing in a Czech nation independent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to which it was attached. In his hometown of Ivančice, the talented teenager defends this political cause early, by illustrating local satirical magazines and decorating auditoriums
Alphonse Mucha Self-portrait in Russian shirt (roubachka) in the workshop of the rue de la Grande-Chaumière Paris, 1882 modern draw from the original negative on glass plate Mucha Foundation, Prague © Mucha Trust 2018
2 - Mucha refused to the Academy of Fine Arts!
In 1878, his application to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague is refused ! Mucha then participates as an amateur in theater performances as a singer-songwriter and decorator. He will begin his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich only in 1885 thanks to the financial support of Count Eduard Khuen-Belasi (1847-1896)
3 - Pecuniary needs reveal his talent
Mucha arrives in Paris in autumn 1887. But at the beginning of 1889, when Eduard Khuen-Belasi stopped paying his allowance, Mucha is forced to work to support himself. He then began illustrations for books and magazines at publishing houses in Paris and Prague.
4 - A decisive meeting with Sarah Bernhardt
It is Sarah Bernhardt who will definitely launch the poster artist career from Mucha. Indeed, he meets the great tragedienne in December 1894. He will realize for her thegismonda poster, a play by Victorien Sardou. Mucha signs a contract of 6 years with Sarah Bernhardt to design the sets, the costumes and the posters of its productions.
Alphonse Mucha Sarah Bernhardt: full-length portrait, study c.1896 pen and ink on 41.5 paper x 26 cm Mucha Foundation, Prague © Mucha Trust 2018
Alphonse Mucha Gismonda 1894 color lithograph 216 x 74.2 cm Mucha Foundation, Prague © Mucha Trust 2018
5 - A great help for Gauguin
At the end of August 1893, Paul Gauguin, recently returned from Tahiti, is without the sub. He entered Paris in the creamery of Madame Charlotte, where the circle of artists from the Rue de la Grande Chaumiere, of which Mucha was a member, met. He who begins to break into the illustration, lives at the time at No. 8, in front of the creamery. He has a workshop that he will share with Gauguin, who then prepares an exhibition of his Tahitian work.
6 - The Mucha style or the birth of Art Nouveau
Rare are the artists who give their name to an artistic movement! This is however the case for Alphonse Mucha. As a poster artist, he develops a very personal style - the Mucha style- characterized by sinuous shapes, organic lines and a subtle range of pastel shades. This style becomes popular and quickly embodies the Art Nouveau movement.
Alphonse MUCHA (after), illustrator The Twelve Months of the Year. Complete Series. Horizontal cards with simple back, neither written nor traveled. Sun: 9x14 cm
7 - Mucha Jeweler
When Parisian goldsmith and jeweler Georges Fouquet (1862-1957) takes over his father's shop in 1895, he is determined to renew the style of the house by hiring new talent. Attracted by the magnificent Jewelry featured on Mucha posters as Medea and Zodiac, he contacted the artist and in 1899, he entrusts to him the design of a whole collection of jewels - earrings, necklaces, rings and brooches - for his stand at the Paris International Exhibition in 1900.
Alphonse Mucha Ornamental chain and pendants designed by Mucha and made by Georges Fouquet 1900 gold, enamel, water pearl, mother-of-pearl and semi-precious stones Mucha Foundation, Prague © Mucha Trust 2018
8 - Huge success during the Universal Exhibition of 1900
When the Paris World Fair opens its doors in 1900, Mucha is already a leading figure in Art Nouveau. He will realize for this event in particular the decoration of the flag of Bosnia-Herzegovina, command of the Austrian government. He receives the Legion of Honor for his contribution to the Paris World Fair. When he goes for the first time to United States in 1904, it is qualified of "greatest decorative artist of the world".
9 - A Retrospective at the Luxembourg Museum
Did you know that Alphonse Mucha was a great poster artist, but also a talented painter and accomplished artist ? It is this facet less known to the artist than theback to school exhibition at Luxembourg Museum will highlight 12 September 2018 at 27 January 2019, where the exhibition brings together the large pieces that have made his work,
If the posters of his Parisian period make his fame, Mucha is a versatile artist: painter, sculptor, photographer, decorator, and a valued teacher ! But his political and humanist convictions led him to gradually renounce this purely decorative vein, and to undertake cycles of history painting, sometimes in very large format, in a militant and idealistic spirit.
Poster of the Alphonse Mucha exhibition National Museums Meeting - 2018 Grand Palais © Mucha Trust 2018
Alphonse Mucha Christmas in America 1919 Oil on canvas 83 x 79 cm Mucha Foundation, Prague © Mucha Trust 2018
10 - An eventful end of life
In 1939, Germans invade Czechoslovakia. Mucha is then arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo. He is released, but his health deteriorates quickly. He died on July 14 in Prague. He is buried in Slavin (the Czech pantheon) at the Vyšehrad Cemetery in Prague.