Developments in the 19th Century


Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map


Alphonse Mucha



Alfons Maria Mucha

born July 24, 1860, Ivančice, Moravia, Austrian Empire [now in Czech Republic]
died July 14, 1939, Prague, Czechoslovakia

original name Alfons Maria Mucha Art Nouveau illustrator and painter noted for his posters of idealized female figures.

After early education in Brno, Moravia, andwork for a theatre scene-painting firm in Vienna, Mucha studied art in Prague, Munich, and Paris in the 1880s. He first became prominent as the principal advertiser of the actress Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. He designed the posters for several theatrical productions featuring Bernhardt, beginning with Gismonda (1894), and he designed sets and costumes for her as well. Mucha designed many other posters and magazine illustrations, becoming one of the foremost designers in the Art Nouveau style. His supple, fluent draftsmanship is used to great effect in his posters featuring women. His fascination with the sensuous aspects of female beauty—luxuriantly flowing strands of hair, heavy-lidded eyes, and full-lipped mouths—as well as his presentation of the female image as ornamental, reveal the influence of the English Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic on Mucha, particularly the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The sensuous bravura of the draftsmanship, particularly the use of twining, whiplash lines, imparts a strange refinement to his female figures.

Between 1903 and 1922 Mucha made four trips to the United States, where he attracted the patronage of Charles Richard Crane, a Chicago industrialist and Slavophile, who subsidized Mucha's series of 20 large historical paintings illustrating the “Epic of the Slavic People” (1912–30). After 1922 Mucha lived in Czechoslovakia, and he donated his “Slavic Epic” paintings to the city of Prague.







master of art nouveau


Alfons Mucha's is an art of seduction.
His graceful women, delicate colours and

decorative style add up to an unashamed act of temptation.


The Wind Passes with Youth
(Design for a Fan)


Alfons Mucha -Art Nouveau Artist



Alfons Mucha, 1885

Enchanting women, streaming hair, flowing fabrics - these are the attributes one associates with Alfons Mucha's artistic ceuvre.
Alfons Mucha was one of the most fascinating artistic personalities of the turn of the century. His work is indissol-ubly linked with the style whose name was at the same time its programme: Art Nouveau. In line with the new movement's demands for a comprehensiveness of design, Mucha paid homage to the ideal of artistic versatility. He was not only a painter and graphic artist, but also took an interest in sculpture, jewellery, interior decorating and utilitarian art. His particular talents, however, lay in decorative graphics. This was the basis of his fame, and remains so today.

Largely as a result of the already highly advanced reproduction techniques of the time, his posters, panneaux decoratifs, calendars, occasional prints, magazine titles and book illustrations reached an extremely broad public and attained enormous popularity. Above all, however, with their catchily decorative motifs, their inexhaustible abundance of ornamental pictorial elements, and the terseness of their cal-ligraphically drawn lines, these compositions had in them the strength to shape a style. As the typical embodiment of the artistic endeavours of the years around 1900, the "Style Mucha" became the pattern for a whole generation of graphic artists and draughtsmen. His hallmark was the idealized, stylized figure of the beautiful or girlishly graceful woman, loosely but inseparably framed in an ornamental system of flowers and foliage, symbols and arabesques. As this was one of the most widespread pictorial motifs of the turn of the century, the "Style Mucha" came for a while to be regarded as synonymous with the whole Art Nouveau movement.

Although Moravian by birth and descent, Mucha experienced his greatest successes in Paris. His work documents the vital atmosphere of the city at a time when it was not just the capital of France, but the glittering cultural capital of the world; it captures the vitality of the fin de siecle and the belle epoque with all their worldliness and decadence, all their predilections and yearnings. He was positively showered with commissions, ranging from large-scale contracts such as the decoration of the Bosnia-Herzegovina pavilion at the Paris World Exhibition, the design of a number of theatre and exhibition poster, to advertisements for champagne, soap and confectionery. In 1900 his name was synonymous with fame, while critical opinion of his work in the years leading up to the Great War became increasingly controversial. In view of all this, it seems almost tragic that Mucha himself did not appreciate his outstanding talent as a genius of decoration and a virtuoso of form, and for a time was, if anything, worried about his reputation as the artist of a decorative style. He wanted above all to depict history, and in particular the history of his nation. It was to this task, which he viewed as a social mission, that he dedicated his entire artistic energy in the years after 1910. In the twenty monumental canvases which constitute his Slav Epic, he created a panorama of the history of the Slavs.




Los Cigarillos Paris, 1897


Mucha's favourite figure, a woman bejewelled and decorated
with flowers, now becomes an allegory of the blue haze of
tobacco smoke. Starting from the actual smoke of the cigarette
which is being advertised, via the starry background and the
dress, to the irises and the flowers of the tobacco plant in the
hair, the coloration is predominantly violet-blue. The
stylized brickwork in the circle behind the seated figure could
be an allusion to a smoking factory chimney.



With this highly successful poster, Mucha took his place in the celebrated Salon des Cent.
His first exhibition was held under the auspices of the magazine "La Plume", whose publisher,
Leon Deschamps, discovered this poster motif- with its "half-naked woman, her head encircled,
halo-like, by golden hair cascading in arabesques" - almost by chance.
His advice to Mucha: "Execute this design just as it is, and you will have created the masterpiece
of the illustrated decorative poster."

Salon des Cent



This poster for Mucha's first one-man exhibition is at the
same time an example of his symbolistically-inspired pictorial
language. A young girl - evidently the symbol of the visual arts -
is shown holding a drawing board, on which are depicted various symbols of hidden meaning:
"... a heart, threatened with thistles by stupidity, with thorns by genius and with blossoms by love",
as a contemporary critic put it.
An allusion to Mucha's origins is the girl's bonnet encircled with daisies,
a theme of Moravian folk-art.

Salon des Cent




Maud Adams as Joan of Arc,1909



Au Quartier Latin




Alfons Mucha in his studio


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