Alphonse Mucha – handpainted reproductions
Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) – Short biography
Alfons Mucha also known as Alphonse Mucha in French and English, was a famous Czech painter whose expertise lay in the Art Nouveau. His work is distinguished from his contemporaries because of its distinctive style. His creations are imaginative and fervent.
Mucha was not only a painter but a decorative artist as well. He designed a number of book and magazine covers, stained glass paintings, jewelry and created costumes for the stage as well. He was a strong advocate of the Slavic Unity. He’s best known for his patriotic themes which portray the Czech culture, despite being so versatile Mucha didn’t gain a great deal of recognition until the age of 35.
Mucha was born in 1860 in South Moravia. He was born into a middle-class family. His father, Andreas earned his livelihood as court usher and his mom, Amaile, a governess, was a devoutly religious person. The place where he lived doubled for the town jail as well. His home was in one-half of the building and the other half was the town jail. The fact that the year Mucha was born epitomized the revival of the Czech culture is perhaps a reason why there are a great many patriotic elements in Mucha’s art. In 1872, he enrolled in a Moravian school but was expelled in 1877 because of poor academic progress.
Mucha started off as a stage painter in 1881. This became the source of his good fortune. A painting of Count Karl Belsai’s house, done by Mucha became so popular that it was the Count who helped him financially while Mucha studied Art for the next two years in Munich. The count kept supporting Mucha till 1877, but soon the financial aid stopped. Now Mucha had to support himself by looking for a job. He started designing covers for French and Czech publications. During this time, Mucha tried his hand at photography as well. It was his meeting with August Strindberg which encouraged him to delve into the realms of spiritualism and occultism.
A lithographed poster of Sara Bernhardt was what gained Mucha the spotlight. Suddenly he became popular and much sought after. His style was appreciated and became the talk of the town. People were so impressed by the posters that they cut off Sara Bernhardt’s figure from it with the use of razors. He soon gained a contract with Sara for the next six years. His fame catapulted and he was on his way to success.
Mucha’s paintings epitomized women who looked like heavenly angels with long flowing robes, pastel dresses and flowers entwined in their hair. There were strong folk elements in all his paintings. He not only took from the Czech culture but depicted rudiments of Byzantine and Egyptian culture as well. What actually caught the viewers’ attention were the strong naturalistic forms infused with the mysterious religious symbolism.
Mucha was destined for success. Each and every task which he undertook became a successful venture. In 1899, the Pavilion Bosnia and Herzegovina designed by Mucha earned international acclaim. In 1904, the Daily News in USA gave him the apt title of “the world’s greatest decorative artist”. His meeting with Richard Crane and Richard’s awe of the Slavic art became a source for a series of paintings which celebrated Slav Nationalism.
In 1910, Muchas moved back to Prague where he created stunning murals which still adorn the Lord Mayors Hall in Municipal House. In 1918 with the establishment of the Czech Republic, Mucha started supporting the Slavic cause with a great deal of zeal. He was the first artist to design the country’s stamps and banknotes.
In 1928, Mucha created a series of 20 epic paintings titled the Slav Epic and donated it to the city of Prague. It was considered to be one Mucha’s greatest pieces of artwork. However, its history is pretty murky because during the time of the Nazi’s the paintings were taken down and termed as reactionary. He was the first of the artists to be taken away and questioned by the Gestapo. During this time Mucha suffered from pneumonia and died from lung complications in 1939.