Alphonse Mucha Research

  1. Czech
  2. Painter and designer
  3. Art Nouveau
  4. Posters for theatrical productions
  5. Mostly female figures painted
  6. Painted “The Slav Epic”
  7. Postage stamp designer (banknotes)
  8. 3D works
  9. Jewelry designer
  10. Loved Byzantine icons

Why is Mucha part of the Art Nouveau movement although he claims he’s not?

The characteristics of his work.

[The Slav Epic] has twenty paintings, ten on Czech subjects, ten on broader Slavic themes.  The first depicts “The Slavs in Their Original Homeland . . .” and carries the subtitle “Between the Knout of the Turks and the Sword of the Goths.”  The last is “The Apotheosis of the History of the Slavs.”  In between this somber beginning and translucent ending, Mucha paints an odyssey that runs from paganism through “The Introduction of the Slavonic Liturgy (Praise God in Thy Native Tongue)” . . . to “The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia, 1861. . . .”  He depicts the Bulgarian czar Simeon (888-927), the coronation of the Serbian czar StephenDushan (1346), and the defense of Sziget against the Turks by the Croatian hero Nicholas Zrinsky (1566).  But it is his choice of Czech subjects which is most interesting.  Six of the canvases are on broadly Hussite themes (“Jan Milic of Kromeriz 1372,” “Master Jan Hus Treaching in the Bethlehem Chapel 1412,” “The Meeting at Krizky 1419,” “After the Battle of Vitkov 1420,” “Petr Chelcicky at Vodnany 1433,” and “The Hussite King Jiri z Podebrad 1462”).  Two more (“The Printing of the Kralicka Bible at Ivancice 1578” and “Jan Amos Komensky–Last Days in Naarden 1670”) invoke the legacy of the Union of Brethren and the tragedy of Czech Protestant exiles after [the Battle of White Mountain].  Premysl Otakar II, perhaps the most famous the Premyslidkings, is also included for “Unity of the Slav Dynasties 1261.”

Source: The Coast of Bohemia: A Czech History

The public of Mucha’s homeland received the Epic with mixed emotions, one can even say with disfavour for the most part. They looked at it as a work whose ideas and intentions were out of tune with the time of its origin.  But they were aware of the sincerity and the honest effort that went into the creation of the whole series.  It came to be viewed as one of those controversial artistic errors which make us feel both respect and pity for the amount of work expended on it..

Source: Alphonse Mucha, his Life and Art

An artist should work on everything from architecture to furniture design so that art would become a part of everyday life. By making beauty and harmony a part of everyday life, artists make people’s lives better. This approach has been represented in painting, architecture, furniture, glassware, graphic design, jewelry, pottery, metalwork, and textiles and sculpture.


One warms to Mucha because he tried so hard to bring art into the lives of the people – his greatest passion – by designing first class posters, advertisements, labels for soap, toothpaste and butter, mosaic panels for municipal swimming pools, crockery, textiles, jewellery (the snake bracelet and ring he designed for Sarah Bernhardt, executed by Fouquet, is perhaps the finest piece of costume jewellery ever created), postage stamps, calendars, letterheads and every conceivable kind of illustrative work. He loved Byzantine icons, collected them and copied them. He despised Art Nouveau, or said he did; not unfairly because his was really a style of its own. Anyone interested in design should study how ingeniously Mucha weaves into a single pattern frame and content, figures and decoration, lettering and picture.


After early education in Brno, Moravia, and work for a theatre scene-painting firm in Vienna, Mucha studied art in Prague, Munich, and Paris in the 1880s. He first became prominent as the principal advertiser of the actress Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. He designed the posters for several theatrical productions featuring Bernhardt, beginning with Gismonda (1894), and he designed sets and costumes for her as well. Mucha designed many other posters and magazine illustrations, becoming one of the foremost designers in the Art Nouveau style. His supple, fluent draftsmanship is used to great effect in his posters featuring women. His fascination with the sensuous aspects of female beauty—luxuriantly flowing strands of hair, heavy-lidded eyes, and full-lipped mouths—as well as his presentation of the female image as ornamental, reveal the influence of the English Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic on Mucha, particularly the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The sensuous bravura of the draftsmanship, particularly the use of twining, whiplash lines, imparts a strange refinement to his female figures.


Czech painter and designer, one of the leading figures in Art Nouveau. His posters and decorative panels brought him international fame, presenting idealized images of young women with long, flowing hair, with a patterned flower border. His early theatre posters were done for the actress Sarah Bernardt, notably the lithograph “Gismondo” (1894).

Trained in Munich, Mucha went to Paris in 1888 where he worked intermittently as a graphic artist. The Art Nouveau theatre posters for Bernhardt, for whom he also designed textiles, furniture, ceramic plaques and exhibition displays, and in 1900-01 a jewelry boutique for Georges Fouquet in Paris (now demolished).

Source: Hutchinson Dictionary of the Arts, 2nd edition




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