Introduction » Alfons Mucha - biography
World renowned Czech painter, graphic artist and designer, who became famous mainly through applied arts (posters, labels, books, jewellery and furniture). The flagship representative of decorative Art Nouveau, who set the “look” of the time. His name and activities are mainly associated with Paris, where he lived for years.
Terms like “le style Mucha” or “Art Nouveau” or “the most famous Art Nouveau” mark the last of the universal styles. At the turn of the 20th century he ruled everything – from architecture through furniture to fashion and biscuit stickers. This “brushwork” is connected with the name Alphonse Mucha, thanks to whom Art Nouveau is still alive today. He was its most significant representative and in America they welcomed him and honoured him like the greatest decorative artist in the world. His ticket to fame, however, was not noble Salon canvases, but pictures of the street – posters.
The journey of Alphonse Mucha to becoming an admired artist was not short one. It led from his hometown Ivančice through Brno, Vienna, Munich and Paris… (among others, it even led through his rejection to the Prague Academy of Fine Arts for a lack of talent). As an illustrator and author of drawings for advertisements for a French theatre magazine he was neither unsuccessful nor exactly famous.
She basically appeared out of the blue. In 1894 Sarah Bernhardt, the Parisian theatre heroine of the highest calibre at the time, commissioned a poster from Mucha for her performance of Gismonda, presented at the famous Theatre de la Renaissance. He was like a revelation – something never seen before. Mucha embraced the opportunity to use the relatively newly perfected technology of lithographic printing. He didn’t just create a mere written message more or less complemented by a picture as was customary back then. He combined typography and drawing lines together, creating a real, cohesive and impressive visual masterpiece. Sarah was highly impressed by the eye-catching poster that nobody could miss. People were fascinated. Mucha worked with the actress for five years, which brought him a number of other offers.
The fact that Mucha gave face to countless posters, labels, stickers, jewellery, calendars and embellished commonplaceness with exceptional décor already as a prized artist meant he enriched the history of art more than authors of renowned canvases, which have fallen into oblivion in museums, galleries and salons.
He is considered one of the founders of poster-making, which we call outdoor advertising in contemporary context. He most likely intuitively sensed that the strongest magnet for the consumer’s eye is not the product itself but the emotions associated with it. And if they are depicted in the face of a beautiful woman, then the effect is all the stronger.
On the mystery behind the attraction of his works, art historian Karel Srp says: “Their focal points in fact became a beautiful girl’s body, set in lavish, original ornamental patterns. They immediately attracted attention. This uniqueness in the art of the time ensured the artist popularity to the present.
Mucha managed to not only capture the ideal beauty of the time, but even a new approach to advertising, which we still use today, by promoting products through models. Moreover, since it was about print, Mucha brought posters to the general public, making them affordable for everyone to buy and decorate their households with. He also set the standard high for various occasional prints, in which he showed that you can transform the everyday into something special”.
Even though the world lay at his feet, Alphonse Mucha’s heart was pulling him home. As soon as he found a sponsor in America, he returned and began working on the cycle of monumental canvases, which he was convinced would become the work of his life – the Slavic Epic. He never finished it. Nevertheless, he still managed to enrich his homeland with stamps, banknotes and police uniforms, which he designed for the newly formed independent republic. He was one of the few artists who lived to see recognition in their lifetimes and his popularity has never ceased even after decades. How else – the beauty of women and flowers is eternal.