Biography: Alphonse Mucha
He presented the American public with his vision of the "new art." The intricately patterned posters perfectly capture the Art Nouveau aesthetic's fascination with natural forms.
Mucha worked with various mediums, including furniture, jewelry, and theater sets, but he is most well known for his widely recognized advertising posters. He spent much of his time working in Vienna and Paris, although he was also in Chicago from 1904 to 1910 when he taught at the Institute. He presented the American public with his vision of the "new art." The intricately patterned posters perfectly capture the Art Nouveau aesthetic's fascination with natural forms, love of ornamentation, and rejection of the anonymity of industrial production. (The Art Story, n.d.)
The future artist Mucha was born on July 24, 1860, in the little hamlet of Ivanice in southern Moravia, then an Austrian Empire province. His mother, Amálie, was a miller's daughter, while his father, Ondej, worked as a court usher. His family was relatively poor. Six of Ondej's kids have first names that begin with the letter A. He has three children with Amálie: Alphonse, Anna, and Andla.
Early on, Mucha showed a gift for sketching, and a local businessman who was moved by it gave him paper for free, even though it was a luxury. He only used his left hand to draw during the preschool phase. He was a violinist and an alto vocalist, so he also had musical skills.
He intended to continue his education after Volksschule, but his family couldn't afford it because they were also paying for the education of his three step-siblings. His music instructor forwarded him to Pavel Kkovsk, choirmaster at St. Thomas's Abbey in Brno, to be accepted into the choir and have the monastery pay for his educational expenses. Despite being moved by his skill, Kovsk could not support and get him since Leo Janáek, another gifted young musician, had recently been accepted.
Kovsk forwarded him to the choirmaster of the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, who took him as a chorister and paid for his high school studies at the Brno gymnasium. He stopped singing in the choir once his voice failed, but he continued to play the violin during services.
The ideas of painting, attending church, and music are all so intertwined in his mind that he later penned, "For me, the notions of painting, going to church, and music are so closely knit that often I cannot decide whether I like church for its music or music for its place in the mystery which it accompanies." He was raised in a culture strongly influenced by Czech nationalism in all forms of art, including music, literature, and painting. He created posters and brochures for patriotic events.
He continued his musical studies at the Gymnázium Brno in the Moravian city of Brno because of his singing ability. Still, his genuine aspiration was to become an artist. He got some work creating stage props and other decorations. He attempted to enroll at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts in 1878 but was turned down and told to "choose another career." He arrived in Vienna, the political and cultural center of the Empire, at the age of 19 in 1880, where he found work as an apprentice scenery painter for a business that created sets for Vienna theaters. He learned about Vienna's museums, cathedrals, palaces, and theater, for which his employment gave him complimentary tickets. He also learned about Hans Makart, a well-known academic painter who produced murals for many of Vienna's palaces and governmental structures. He was a master of large-scale portraits and historical paintings. His aesthetic inclination led Mucha in that direction, and his approach inspired his later work. He also started dabbling with photography, which would play a significant role in his output. (Alphonse Mucha - Wikipedia, 2008)
In 1888, Mucha relocated to Paris. Before enrolling in the Academie Colarossi, he did so in the Academie Julian. Alphonse Mucha started his career as a magazine illustrator after getting to know many other struggling artists, such as the Czech illustrator Ludek Marold. The magazine job generated regular money.
Alphonse Mucha and Paul Gauguin shared a studio for a while after becoming friends. His friendship with Swedish dramatist August Strindberg also deepened. Mucha started doing illustrations for books in addition to his magazine illustration work.
Alphonse Mucha was in the ideal situation at the perfect time in late 1894. One of the most well-known performers in the world, Sarah Bernhardt, approached the publishing firm Lemercier to have a poster made for her most recent play, Gismonda. When the call came in, manager Maurice de Brunhoff was at the publishing house with Mucha. Brunhoff invited Mucha to make a new poster since he was willing and could do the task in two weeks. The result was a larger-than-life-size representation of Sarah Bernhardt as the play's main character.
The poster created a stir on Paris's streets. In addition to placing an order for 4,000 copies, Sarah Bernhardt also agreed to a six-year deal with Alphonse Mucha. Mucha became famous overnight after having his artwork exhibited all over Paris. He was hired to create the official posters for each show by Sarah Bernhardt. Mucha relocated to a three-bedroom apartment with a sizable studio since he enjoyed the unexpected income rise.
Mucha received several more illustration orders due to his success in creating the posters for Sarah Bernhardt. He produced various advertisements for goods ranging from bicycles to baby food. He also started the journal La Plume's famed artistic and literary review cover images. His art depicted women in opulent natural settings covered with flowers and other organic elements. An important figure in the nascent Art Nouveau movement was Alphonse Mucha.
The 1900s Paris Universal Exposition featured a sizable Art Nouveau exhibit. It featured the creations of several French designers, and many of the structures built for the exhibition included Art Nouveau architecture. The Austro-Hungarian government received an application from Alphonse Mucha to paint murals for the Bosnia and Herzegovina pavilion at the show. He originally intended to paint scenes of the misery endured by the local Slavic peoples at the hands of European invaders. Still, after the government rejected his proposal, he came up with a more joyful tribute to Balkan customs, which featured Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Mucha's artwork was also included in several other areas of the exhibition, in addition to his murals. He designed displays for the perfume company Houbigant and the jeweler Georges Fouquet. His illustrations might be shown in the Austrian pavilion. Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary knighted Mucha because of his admiration for his art. In addition, the French government awarded him the Legion of Honor. After the fair, Georges Fouquet engaged Mucha to design his new store in Paris. It debuted in 1901 with an interior design influenced by Art Nouveau. (ThoughtCo, 2018)
Mucha finished his last painting, The Apotheosis of the Slavs, No. 20, in 1926. It depicts the new republic as it is protected by Christ and is surrounded by a rainbow of peace. He dedicated the Slav Epic to the City of Prague in 1928 during the nation's 10th-anniversary festivities and created an exquisite stained glass window for St. Vitus Cathedral (1931). As Nazism undermined his sense of security as the decade progressed, he continued to trust in the power of art and started a triptych titled The Three Ages (1936–38) to promote the ideas of reason, wisdom, and love as the routes to world peace. Mucha's goals, creative output, and eventually, his life were all destroyed by the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. As a "reactionary," he was subjected to Gestapo interrogation; already frail from a lung ailment, he passed away in 1939.
The Slav Epic was kept secret under the Nazi occupation, and under Communism, his works of art were still considered decadent and bourgeois and were not displayed in public. His son, Jiri Mucha, spent a large portion of his life working to restore his father's good name.
Mucha's style was often imitated on British posters for Pink Floyd and The Incredible String Band during the Art Nouveau resurgence in the 1960s. Additionally, a 1966 San Francisco "happening" poster in the United States replicates Mucha's Job Cigarette Paper (1896). Mucha has also been recognized as having influenced Stuckist painter Paul Harvey and Japanese Manga artists like Naoko Takeuch's cartoons and fantasy artwork. (The Art Story, n.d.)
The Art Story. (n.d.). www.theartstory.org. Retrieved July 17, 2022, from https://www.theartstory.org/artist/mucha-alphonse/
Alphonse Mucha - Wikipedia. (2008, April 20). en.wikipedia.org. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphonse_Mucha
ThoughtCo. (2018, December 10). www.thoughtco.com. https://www.thoughtco.com/alphonse-mucha-biography-4570820