Alfons Maria Mucha (Czech: [ˈalfons ˈmuxa] ( listen); 24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939), known as Alphonse Mucha, was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, known best for his distinct style. He produced many paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs.
Alphonse Maria Mucha was born in the town of Ivančice, Moravia (currently a region of the Czech Republic). In 1871, Mucha became a chorister at the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, Brno, where he received his secondary school education. It is there that he had his first revelation, in front of the richness of Baroque art. During the four years of studying there, he formed a friendship with Leoš Janáček who would become the greatest Czech composer of his generation. Although his singing abilities allowed him to continue his education through high school, currently known as Gymnázium Brno, třída Kapitána Jaroše 14, in the Moravian capital of Brno, drawing had been his main hobby since childhood. He worked at decorative painting jobs in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery. In 1879, he relocated to Vienna to work for a major Viennese theatrical design company, while informally augmenting his artistic education. When a fire destroyed his employer's business during 1881 he returned to Moravia, to do 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.
Mucha moved to Paris in 1887, and continued his studies at Académie Julian and Académie Colarossi. In addition to his studies, he worked at producing magazine and advertising illustrations. About Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to go into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Paris, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on 1 January 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou was posted in the city, where it attracted much attention.
Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she began a six-year contract with Mucha.
Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially The Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau (French for "new art"). Mucha's works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors.
Mucha's style was given international exposure by the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, of which Mucha said, "I think [the Exposition Universelle] made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts."
He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated with decorating the Austrian Pavilion. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. The Art Nouveau style, however, was one that Mucha attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself 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 by his commercial art, when he most wanted to concentrate on more artistic projects.
Mucha married Maruška (Marie/Maria) Chytilová on 10 June 1906, in Prague. The couple visited the U.S. from 1906 to 1910, during which time their daughter, Jaroslava, was born in New York City. They also had a son, Jiří, (born 12 March 1915 in Prague; died 5 April 1991 in Prague) who later became a journalist, writer, screenwriter, author of autobiographical novels and studies of the works of his father. In the U.S., Mucha expected to earn money to fund his nationalistic projects to demonstrate to Czechs that he had not "sold out". He was assisted by millionaire Charles R. Crane, who used his fortune to help promote revolutions and, after meeting Thomas Masaryk, Slavic nationalism. Alphonse and his family returned to the Czech lands and settled in Prague, where he decorated the Theater of Fine Arts, contributed his time and talent to create the murals in the Mayor's Office at the Municipal House, and other landmarks around the city. When Czechoslovakia won its independence after World War I, Mucha designed the new postage stamps, banknotes, and other government documents for the new state.
Mucha considered his publication Le Pater to be his printed masterpiece, and referred to it in the New York Sun of 5 January 1900 as what he had "put [his] soul into it". Printed on 20 December 1899, Le Pater was Mucha's occult examination of the themes of The Lord's Prayer and only 510 copies were produced.
Mucha spent many years working on what he considered his life's fine art masterpiece, The Slav Epic (Slovanská epopej), a series of twenty huge paintings depicting the history of the Czech and the Slavic people in general, bestowed to the city of Prague in 1928. He had wanted to complete a series such as this, a celebration of Slavic history, since he was young. From 1963 until 2012 the series was on display in the chateau in Moravský Krumlov in the South Moravian Region in the Czech Republic. Since 2012 the series has been on display at the National Gallery's Veletržní Palace in Prague.
The rising tide of fascism during the late 1930s resulted in Mucha's works and his Slavic nationalism being denounced in the press as 'reactionary'. Mucha’s Slav nationalism and Jewish roots made him a primary target of the Gestapo during Nazi occupation. When German troops moved into Czechoslovakia during the spring of 1939, Mucha was among the first persons to be arrested by the Gestapo. During his interrogation, the aging artist became ill with pneumonia. Though released eventually, he may have been weakened by this event. He died in Prague on 14 July 1939, due to lung infection, and was interred there in the Vyšehrad cemetery.
Although it enjoys great popularity today, at the time when he died, Mucha's style was considered outdated. His son, author Jiří Mucha, devoted much of his life to writing about him and bringing attention to his artwork. In his own country, the new authorities were not interested in Mucha. The Slav Epic was rolled and stored for twenty-five years before being shown in Moravský Krumlov, and a Mucha Museum opened in Prague, managed by his grandson John Mucha.
Mucha's work has continued to experience periodic revivals of interest for illustrators and artists. Interest in Mucha's distinctive style experienced a strong revival during the 1960s (with a general interest in Art Nouveau) and is particularly evident in the psychedelic posters of Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, the collective name for British artists Michael English, Nigel Waymouth and Bob Masse.
Per the band's request, Metromedia purchased the rights to use Mucha's painting Zodiac on the cover of their debut album Gypsy which was released in the fall of 1970 by the band Gypsy. It was also used as an inset on the cover of their second album In the Garden, which was released in 1971 but failed to get much promotion.
One of Mucha's paintings, Quo Vadis or alternately Petronius and Eunice, was the subject of a legal dispute in 1986. The judgment by Richard Posner describes parts of Mucha's life and work biographically.
One of the largest collections of Mucha's works is in the possession of former world no. 1 professional tennis player Ivan Lendl, who started collecting his works upon meeting Jiří Mucha in 1982. His collection was exhibited publicly for the first time in 2013 in Prague.
Joan of Arc, Maude Adams 1909
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.1: The Slavs in Their Original Homeland (1912)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.2: The Celebration of Svantovít (1912)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.3: Introduction of the Slavonic Liturgy in Great Moravia (1912)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.4: Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria (1923)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.5: King Přemysl Otakar II of Bohemia (1924)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.6: The Coronation of Serbian Tsar Štěpán Dušan (1926)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.7: Milíč of Kroměříž (1916)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.8: Master Jan Hus Preaching at the Bethlehem Chapel: Truth Prevails (1916)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.9: The Meeting at Křížky (1916)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.10: After the Battle of Grunewald (1924)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.11: After the Battle of Vítkov (1916)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.12: Petr of Chelčice (1918)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.13: The Hussite King Jiří z Podĕbrad (1923)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.15: The Printing of the Bible of Kralice in Ivančice (1914)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.16: Jan Amos Komenský (1918)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.17: The Holy Mount Athos (1926)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.18: The Oath of Omladina under the Slavic Linden Tree (1926)
Mucha's The Slav Epic No.19: The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia (1914)
Mucha's The Slav Epic cycle No.20: The Apotheosis of the Slavs, Slavs for Humanity (1926)
The artist Mucha—he always signed his work without his given name, which he preferred to ignore—died here ...(subscription required)
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