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.
Alfons Maria Mucha was born in Ivancice, a small provincial town
in the Czech Republic.
He started his artistic career as an autodidact. Alfons Mucha had
a vocational training in stage decorations in Vienna from 1879 to
1881. In the evening he attended a class in drawing. After a few
occasional commissions for decorative paintings, he went to Munich
in Southern Bavaria. Here he studied at the Munich Academy of Fine
Arts from 1885 to 1887.
After Munich, Mucha moved to the "mecca" of arts, Paris.
Here he studied with different teachers. He lived in modest conditions
and could survive with small commissions for book and newspaper
illustrations. For a short period he shared a studio with Paul Gauguin.
In December 1894 Mucha became famous with a commission for a poster
for the actress Sarah Bernard. Sarah Bernard was a very famous actress
and celebrity of her time. His poster design for the play Gismonda
became a sensation in Paris. Sarah Bernhard was delighted. He received
an exclusive contract for six consecutive years by the actress.
In the following years, he not only designed all her posters, but
her theater decorations and costumes as well. From now on the artist
was swamped with commissions for all kind of commercial print advertising.
By this time Mucha had developed his own personal style - characterized
by art nouveau elements, tender colors and bycantine decorative
elements. And all these elements were ranked around images of fairy
like young women with long hair and splendid, refined costumes.
In the coming years, this type of female images should become his
Mucha used lithography as the printing technique for his posters.
The posters are usually signed in the block. Some of his posters
were produced as sets like The Four Seasons. Complete sets count
among the most searched for of his works.
In 1890 the artist had his first one man show in Paris with 448
works on display. His art work was not confined to the printing
media. He designed tissues, stamps and even bank bills. In 1900
he received a commission by the Austrian government to decorate
the Austrian pavilion for the World Fair in Paris of 1900. He became
also active in designing jewelry.
Between 1904 and 1921 Mucha traveled frequently to the United States.
He took commissions in the US and taught art at art academies in
New York and Chicago.
In 1939 the German Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia. The popularity
of the artist made him a number one target for the Gestapo, the
Nazi secret police. He was arrested, interrogated and realeased.
Shortly afterwards, Alphonse Maria Mucha died on July 14, 1939 in