Artist of the Day – Alfons Mucha

| May 1, 2012 | 0 Comments
Facebook Twitter Linkedin Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Pinterest Email has chosen the famous Czech Artist Alfons Mucha famous for Art Nouveau.

Born, 24 July 1860 Death, 14 July 1939 (aged 78), Movement, Art Nouveau

Alfons Mucha was from a rural background and he went to study art at the age of 28.  His Paris studio was a place of work and a chamber of wonders.  He lived there for more than 20 years as a bachelor.   Theatre’s played a major role in Paris around 1894, in particular Sarah Bernhardt was famous with her expressive dramatic performances.  Sarah Bernhardt needed a poster for her production of Gismonda by Victorien Sardou.  The printing firm had no artist available all were away due to the Christmas holidays.  Mucha was there in the printing firm proofing some prints for a friend so having no choice he was asked to do a poster.  There was enormous pressure on the Artist who had to produce a poster for the play.  The expectation gave way to revolution in poster design. The dimensions of the poster were determined by the litho stone printing at the time.  Mucha drew two sections which were put together to make a slender erect figure of the poster.  The posters he designed were over 2 metres tall, tall enough to be the size of a human being, many of Mucha posters were placed at eye level so you could eye to eye with the poster.  However due to popular demand they soon became collector items and as soon as they were put up, fans went and peeled them off.

Sarah Bernhardt was thrilled with Mucha who had portrayed her as slender, young and above all highly visible.  In return she placed him under contract for five years, from now on he designed her jewellery, her costumes and even some set designs.  Sarah Bernhardt also used her posters on tour which helped spread Mucha’s fame as far as America.  In the Art Nouveau man does not exist in the designs very often and when he does he is merely a supporter behind the women.  Art Nouveau depends on women, as women have all the necessary ingredients with the long hair.  It is the hair that makes the women attractive and beautiful.  Mucha used the hair like a creature in its own right with tumbling down locks entwining around the body and the poster.  Mucha women are sexy without being vulgar.

Mucha quickly became the “Darling of Paris” after 20 years his rise to fame caused him to yearn to return to Czechoslovakia . The invention of the electric lights and the movie camera, and cars started to dominate Paris.  People at the time dreamt of an easier life, innovations were presented at the World Exhibition and symbolism, Free Masonry and the Ocult were in fashion.  Much was obsessed with the Ocult and became a free Mason and held seance’s.  Mucha designed jewellery, decorating jellery shops and his designs and motifs were used in tattoos.  Mucha aslo made a book, like a designer bible with ordinary every day items beautifully designed which was available for the public to copy and make up into beautiful pieces of furniture or decoration.  He wanted everyday items to be nicely designed with art.  Slovakia Art soon became his inspiration 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. Since 1963 the series has been on display in the chateau in Moravský Krumlov theSouth Moravian Region in the Czech Republic.

Mucha, wrote in a Prague art magazine the process of composition must take place in the imagination, thereafter its necessary to harmonise light and shadow to determine everything about the movement of each figure even down to the movement of the little finger.  He then would proceed to use tracing paper over his pencil designs taking one section of the canvas at a time and tracing on paper with grids like graph paper.  Tiny holes were then made in the tracing paper and the charcoal was blown through those holes so you ended up connecting the dots and then the final details were added to the canvas put on with oil paint.  Before the drawing on the canvas stage Mucha had actors to stage the scenes with props, the whole village were more than happy to help out.


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Category: Art Reviews