Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Alfons Mucha, half-length portrait, facing right
Date Copyrighted 1906
Author Geo. K. Lawrence Co., Chicago
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Maude Adams (1872–1953) as Joan of Arc
Technique Poster 1909
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Source Art Renewal Center Museum
Created by Mucha in Chicago

Alfons Maria Mucha (1860 - 1939) was born in the town of Ivančice, Moravia (today's region of Czech Republic). His singing abilities allowed him to continue his education through high school in the Moravian capital of Brno, even though drawing had been his first love since childhood. He worked at decorative painting jobs in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery, then in 1879 moved to Vienna to work for a leading Viennese theatrical design company, while informally furthering his artistic education. When a fire destroyed his employer's business in 1881 he returned to Moravia, doing freelance decorative and portrait painting. Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov hired Mucha to decorate Hrušovany Emmahof Castle with murals, and was impressed enough that he agreed to sponsor Mucha's formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.

La Primevère
From masterclassart.com

Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewellery, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was initially called the Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau. Mucha's works frequently featured beautiful healthy young women in flowing vaguely Neoclassical looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed haloes behind the women's heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used paler pastel colors. The 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris diffused the "Mucha style" internationally. He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated in the Austrian one. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. However, this was a style that Mucha attempted to distance himself from throughout his life; he insisted always that, rather than adhering to any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings came purely from within and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more; hence his frustration at the fame he gained through commercial art, when he wanted always to concentrate on more lofty projects that would ennoble art and his birthplace.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

La Plume
From masterclassart.com
Alphonse Mucha achieved international fame as a master of Art Nouveau, the decorative style of sensuous and opulent decoration that captured the fin-de-siecle world but was rapidly supplanted by the harsher vision of modernism. His poster art remains familiar over sixty years after his death, but the work he considered his masterpiece is sadly neglected. Whilst the series is now on public display, it is confined to a remote Czech village and outside this site, images are hard to find.
The Slav Epic is nevertheless a monumental artistic achievement; it consists of twenty enormous canvases, some as tall as 6 metres, presenting a brilliantly conceived narrative history of the Slavic people in general and the Czech people in particular.

Zyziza photo at pbase.com

Mucha's first theatrical poster without Sarah Bernhardt was one of three projects he made at the printing firm of Camis before settling down with Champenois. The play, a comedy by Maurice Donnay, starred Jeanne Granier and Lucien Guitry, and premiered on November 5, 1895.
(By Zyziza at pbase.com)

Chocolat Ideal
Zyziza photo at pbase.com

Bieres de la Meuse
Zyziza photo at pbase.com

The jovial beer drinker has her long flowing tresses adorned with some appropriate beer ingredients, including barley stalks and green hops, and large field poppy flowers indigenous to northeastern France. This is another one of Mucha's characteristic designs featuring a beauty, semicircular and circular motifs, and artfully meandering hair.
(By Zyziza at pbase.com)

Pévecké sdruzeni ucitelu moravskych
Zyziza photo at pbase.com

Princezna Hyacinta
Zyziza photo at pbase.com

Printed in Prague, this poster advertised Princess Hyacinth by Ladislav Novák and Oskar Nedbal, a fairy tale ballet and pantomime about a blacksmith who dreams that his daughter is a princess kidnapped by a sorcerer. The popular actress Andula Sedláková starred in the title role and her portrait with its icy blue eyes and fixed gaze dominates the poster.
Mucha uses the decoration, which incorporates hearts, the tools of the blacksmith, a crown and instruments of sorcery, to make references to the plot of the ballet. The motif of the hyacinth is used throughout the design, from the embroidered robes to the exquisite silver jewellery, as well as in the circular device held by the princess.
(By Zyziza at pbase.com)
In his studio on the Zbiroh Castle in 1911, Mucha began creation of a monumental and controversial series of paintings known as the "Slav Epics" (in Czech: "slovanská epopej"). The series attempted to record slavic history, and in so doing, justify and solidify the basic ideas of the new state. The whole project was sponsered by the American industrialist and diplomat Charles R. Crane. In 1928 - after moving into his own house in Prague-Bubeneč - Mucha donated the entire series of paintings to the city of Prague. In 1921, five of these paintings were displayed to great acclaim in Chicago and New York. Since 1963 you can see the complete series in the castle of Moravský Krumlov near Mucha's town of birth Ivančice.
(© Gerhard Batz 1997-2001)
The last thirty years of his life were devoted to these not particularly fortunate works and to a number of official orders which he was granted by the new Czechoslovak republic.
(From think magazine, Inkybrain Media Ventures Pte Ltd)

Slavs in their Original Homeland
Between the Turanian Whip and the Sword of the Goths
From museumsyndicate.com

The first painting of the series presents a Slavic Adam and Eve in hiding from an invasionary force sometime during the third to sixth centuries. The white of their clothing represents purity and innocence and contrasts with the flames of a village set ablaze by the soldiers. Most interesting is the levitating figure on the right; he is a pagan priest praying for mercy for his suffering people. Under his his left arm is a girl wearing a green wreath as a symbol of peace and under his right is a warrior youth representing the just war. The message conveyed is that, in future, the Slavic people must fight for their freedom.
After spending many years in Paris and America, Mucha returned to Prague in 1910 with the Slav Epic project as his driving ambition. He had arranged funding from the American, Charles Crane, and the work occupied the years 1912 to 1928. The first eleven canvases were displayed in Prague's Klementium in 1919 to great public interest and acclaim. Critical opinion though was hostile, being out of sympathy with was was seen as its dated nationalism and academic style.

Located in Moravský Krumlov
© 2004 - 2009 malyfred

Various canvases from from the sequence were displayed in both Czechoslovakia and America over the next twenty years producing a similarly ambivalent reaction. Mucha gifted the Slav Epic to the city of Prague in 1928. The sequence is divided equally between Czech and broader Slavic themes, and is also arranged thematically along allegorical, religious, military and cultural lines. As well as the time spent composing the paintings, Mucha devoted considerable energy to research involving travel throughout the Balkans and Russia; this scholastic approach resulted in considerable moral and didactic content.
The first twelve painting group readily into blocks of three:
The first three deal with the early days of Slavic history and are highly symbolic, using the devise of an upper and lower register.
The next three are centred around specific rulers from the early middle ages.
The Magic of the word triptych deals with the emergence of a Slavic religious consciousness, centred around Jan Huss.
Finally, there are three murals illustrating the effects of the Hussite wars:
These series establish the themes of the series which are:
Celebration of Slavic love of peace, piety and learning.
Lamentation of the interference of foreign oppressors, and the wars they bring.
Pleas for Slavic unity, which finds expression in Slavic liturgy and religion.
These ideas recur repeatedly in the remainder of the series, which is supportive of the right of the peoples of the world to live and prosper in an environment free from oppression and subjugation. Its creation marked a shift in Mucha's artistic interest from the individual to the collective in an attempt to inspire his countrymen to achieve their full destiny. This has being unfairly characterised as jingoism, but can more accurately be understood by considering Mucha's own words:
'I am convinced that the development of every nation may proceed with success only if it grows organically and continuously form the nation's own roots and that for the preservation of this continuity, knowledge of its historical past is indispensable.'
(From pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk)

Petr Chelcicky at Vodnany
Do not repay evil with evil
at pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk

This composition though stylistically similar to the depiction of the battle of Vitkov, deals with a different aspect of the Hussite Wars. Vodnany was a small town caught in the crossfire between the Hussites and the Germanic forces. They chose to flee to Petr Chelcicky, a religious peasant philospher. When they arrived, they lay down exhausted and dieing, consumed by anger and grief, their homes burning in the background. Chelcicky moves amongst them with a Bible, offering comfort and support, asking that they do not seek vengeance.
This is the most clearly pacifist of Mucha's series of battle paintings and relates closely to the carnage brought about by the First World War which was drawing to a close when the scene was painted.
(From pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk)

The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia
Work in Freedom is the Foundation of a State
at pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk

In Russia, serfdom was abolished by means of the Emancipation Edict of 1861, much later than elsewhere in Europe, The painting of the occasion shows a subdued crowd, uncertain as to what to make of the event, as perhaps expressed by the mother and child figure looking out from the left, her anxious expression reflecting the hard peasant life.
(From pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk)

The Bohemian King Premysl Otakar II
The Union of Slavic Dynasties
at pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk

Premysl Otakar II who ruled from 1253 to 1278, was one of the greatest kings in Czech history, famed for his military successes, wealth generosity and political acumen. The mural depicts the wedding celebration of one of his nieces, to which he invited all Slavic rulers in an attempt to forge an alliance and bring about peace.
The setting is a large tent with a enclosed chapel showing the King's crest, a spread eagle. Otakar himself, is greeting two of his guests while others inanimately observe.
(From pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk)

Coronation of Serbian Tsar Stepan Dusan as East Roman Emperor
The Slavic Code of Law
at pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk

Stepan Dusan was a strong military leader who took advantage of the failing Byzantine empire to expand Slavic territory southwards, being crowned in 1346 as Tsar of the Serbs and Greeks. From this position he instituted a code of law which held force throughout the Roman Empire.
The subject of the picture is the procession which followed the coronation. It is led by young girls in native dress who steal the scene from the elders bearing the Tsar's sword and crown, their youth expressing Mucha's hope for the future. The newly crowned Tsar's red-lined cloak frames his figure in the centre of the composition.
(From The Slav Epic at pricejb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk)

© Copyright 1996-2009 Radio Prague

Alfons Maria Mucha handwritings
Source: Don Kurtz
Images is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

at art-portrait-commissions.blogspot.com

Alphonse Mucha with his decorative posters has become a kind of trademark and synonym for the Art Nouveau movement. In the sixties his poster reproductions had a revival and were popular again among the flower-power and hippie generation.

1 comment:

leesa said...

Thanx you so much for all the GREAT postings!!!

The Beautiful Mucha... the details of Leyendecker... and the wonderful Parrish!