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MUCHA, Alfons (Alphonse) MUCHA biography by senses-artnouveau.com

Alfons MUCHA

(1860-1939)

Czech graphic designer and painter

Alfons Mucha worked mainly as a poster artist and became an influential figure of Art Nouveau in late 1890s, when poster illustrations were emerging as popular art form and new printing processes were developed.

Alfons MUCHA's portrait

Alfons MUCHA was born in 1860 in Moravia, the modern Czech Republic. He worked as a painter and studied art in Austria and Germany, before moving in 1887 to Paris, France, where he struggled to make a living as graphic artist producing book illustrations and calendar art.

In 1895, he was commissioned to create a poster for Sarah Bernhardt's play "Gismonda". The immediate success that followed, the originality and sensitivity of Mucha's new style

and wide public appreciation, made the legendary actress sign him to a six-year contract to design posters, stage sets and costumes for her plays.

By 1898, Mucha had become a famous and creative Art Nouveau artist. He designed and published postcards, theatre and advertisement posters, numerous illustrations and decorative panels series, set around central themes inspired by nature, some printed on silk. He produced an astonishing amount of drawings, pastel or watercolor studies and designs for interior decorations, cutlery and dinner object, jewelry and fashion.

In 1902, he published the visual statement of his artistic creed, the portfolio "Documents Décoratifs", in which he established his theories and the main decorative elements of Art Nouveau. From 1907 to 1928 he worked on "The Slav Epic", a huge mural paintings series for the city of Prague.

A famous poster by Alfons Mucha

Contemporary of Victor Horta's Art Nouveau designs in Brussels, Alphonse Mucha was influenced by Symbolism and by the social aspects of William Morris' Arts and Crafts Movement in England. He attempted to give access to the beauty of art to every social class and to elevate the decorative elements to the status of works of art. He developed his own aesthetic ideals and original style, which became the hallmark of his time and was also known as "Mucha Style".

His graphic works are based on a strong centered composition and symbolic themes, featuring idealized young female figures in sensuous or provocative poses, entwined in vaporous hair and light dresses enriched by decorative ornaments inspired by nature, such as willowy foliage, flowers and extravagantly beautiful jewels. The figures are detailed by expressive darker lines and enriched by natural soft colors and gold; functional and decorative friezes usually frame the illustrations and the background space is filled by floral or abstract patterns.


Major works:

"Sarah Bernhardt in Gismonda" Theatre Poster (1895);
Decorative panels series: the Four Stars, the Four Seasons, the Four Arts, The Flowers, The Fine Stones (c1898-1902);
"Documents Décoratifs" portfolio, published in 1902.





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