Developments in the 19th Century


Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map


Alphonse Mucha


Alfons Maria Mucha

born July 24, 1860, Ivančice, Moravia, Austrian Empire [now in Czech Republic]
died July 14, 1939, Prague, Czechoslovakia

original name Alfons Maria Mucha Art Nouveau illustrator and painter noted for his posters of idealized female figures.

After early education in Brno, Moravia, andwork 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.

Between 1903 and 1922 Mucha made four trips to the United States, where he attracted the patronage of Charles Richard Crane, a Chicago industrialist and Slavophile, who subsidized Mucha's series of 20 large historical paintings illustrating the “Epic of the Slavic People” (1912–30). After 1922 Mucha lived in Czechoslovakia, and he donated his “Slavic Epic” paintings to the city of Prague.






master of art nouveau


Alfons Mucha's is an art of seduction.
His graceful women, delicate colours and

decorative style add up to an unashamed act of temptation.


The Influence of Symbolism


Lance Parfum "Rodo", 1896

It is well-known that in Paris Mucha maintained contact with the Symbolists and circles close to them, such as the freemasons. He must also have been acquainted with individual key works of the literature of the period which were to have a decisive influence on the pictorial language of Symbolism and the fin de siecle, such as Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs du Mai", Maeterlinck's "Pelleas et Melisande" and Flaubert's "Herodias". They contained the roots of the forms of artistic expression for representing dream-images and yearnings experienced in meditation along with a symbolism based on flowers. In contemporary paintings, for example by Odilon Redon, Carlos Schwabe and Gustave Moreau, Mucha also found the image of woman which, in accordance with contemporary mythology, oscillated between femme fatale and dreamy princess. In his own works, however, he subordinated the symbolistically inspired allegories and pictorial motifs to an overall decorative effect. Finally, Mucha drew artistic profit from the inspiring atmosphere of Parisian life as the century drew to its close. Stimulated by the pioneering graphic work of Toulouse-Lautrec, Eugene Grasset and Jules Cheret, poster art was experiencing a veritable boom. The interest taken by numerous artists in the modern mass medium of the poster was welcomed not least as an expression of the democratization of art; streets with hoardings were feted as public art galleries. Responding to this aesthetic revaluation, even advertising posters were no longer satisfied with the hitherto standard "plain and simple" proclamation of their message in large letters, but tried rather to awaken the interest of the public by means of artistically up-market designs, which is what Mucha produced.



The title is symbolized by a young woman who appears to
be pausing for a moment while leafing through her album.
The extravagant jewellery on her breast is cleverly conceived as a component of her shawl.
The motif of the woman dreaming to herself, the arabesque-like branchings
of the circle of blossoms along with the dynamically formed panicles all fuse into a single decorative unit.
One contemporary critic remarked that she "would be the smiling face in every boudoir".


Monaco Monte Carlo

Spring Awakening on the Mediterranean" is the theme of this
early example of tourist advertising. Mucha symbolizes the
charm of the season and its luxuriantly unfolding Mediterranean
vegetation by means of a graceful girl whose long white dress
covers the ground like snow. From this "snowfield" springs
a veritable fireworks display of floral garlands. The poster was
originally designed for the Paris-Lyons-Marseilles railway
company, but was also offered for sale to collectors of graphic
art without the advertising text.




This poster, commissioned by a bicycle manufacturer,
comes across as a detail taken from a larger composition;
it addresses the beholder directly. It is a sign of Mucha's highly modern
concept of advertising. Thus he does not depict a lady-bicyclist
in the open countryside, in accordance with the conventions
of the time, but conveys the dynamism of this means of
transport by the young lady's hair fluttering in the wind as she
leans over her bicycle.

Cycles Perfecta,1897



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