Friday, January 7, 2011

You better Czech what you think you know

OOhh, I can see this is already going to be a challenge...keeping this blog up, I mean. :)

But I shall prevail! I have so much art to share in and a whole gosh darn year to do it in!!

My next candidate for discussion I'm sure we have all seen, in fact, I KNOW we've all seen his work. But what do we really know about him?

Alphonse Mucha - The Art Nouveau Frontman
For starters, I did not know that this master of the Art Nouveau style, famous for his whimsical, goddess-like female figures, was Czech. He was born in Moravia (modern day Czech Republic) in 1860. He moved to Paris in 1887. He got his start during Christmas 1894 when he created a lithographed poster promoting a theatrical production featuring Sarah Bernhardt. The poster became so widely popular and successful, Bernhardt entered into a 6 year contract with Mucha and the new style (later to be changed to "Art Nouveau") was called the "Mucha style."

If someone mentioned "Art Nouveau" to you, what would you think? Before researching for this update, I would have said "Early 1900's French Art." Funny how that is so WRONG. Mucha developed this style out of Czech art and his own internal, spiritual inspiration. The only thing French about it was that they adopted it from his example.

The Art Nouveau style is characterized by bold outlines, strong compositions with flow, natural colors, graceful figures, floral motifs, and curvaceous lines.

Other followers of Art Nouveau include Antonio Gaudí (Barcelona), Gustav Klimt (Vienna), Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Paris), and Louis Comfort Tiffany (New York...Tiffany and Co., anyone??).

While it's easy to think of Mucha's work as only posters, he also worked on book illustrations, postcards, advertisements, and designs for carpets, jewelry, and theater sets. The masterpiece of his life's work, however, was a 20-page compilation of paintings depicting the Czech/Slavic people in a historical tribute. The completed work was a given to the city of Prague as a gift in 1928.


- "Art Nouveau" is actually an international style that hit it's peak from 1894 to 1905...In Germany, it is known as Jugendstil, "youth style," for a magazine that popularized it; in Italy, it was called Stile Liberty after the department store, Liberty & Co., that popularized it.

- When German troops marched on Czechoslovakia in 1939, Mucha was one of the first to be arrested by the Gestapo for his "reactionary" works and Slavic nationalism. He contracted pneumonia when undergoing questioning and never recovered, even after his release. Why do great artists always seem to suffer such ill fates?? :(

- Because I am a nerd, this last fact will elude to one of my favorite middle school/high school fandoms: Sailor Moon. Mucha's style is popular even today...Manga artist Naoko Takeuchi produced a series of official posters in Mucha's style promoting her most famous series, Sailor Moon. Other manga and comic artists (Masakazu Katsura, Marvel Comic Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada) have done a similar thing.


  1. Really liked the connection you made to Sailor Moon! It may seem silly, but I think it's applications like those that make some art relevant today and introduce people (even unknowingly) to cool artistic concepts and artists.

  2. Thanks, Jade! If you liked that, make sure to check out my Caravaggio post...there's a reference to Barbie :D