Alphonse Mucha

Czechoslovakian , 1860 - 1939

Alphonse Mucha was born in Ivancice, a small provincial town in the Czech Republic. He began his artistic career as an autodidact. From 1879 to 1881 he had some vocational training in stage decorations in Vienna and he attended evening drawing classes. After completing a few commissions for decorative paintings, he went to Munich in Southern Bavaria, where he studied at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts from 1885 to 1887. Mucha moved from Munich to Paris where he studied with different teachers and lived a modest life, surviving by taking small commissions for book and newspaper illustrations. He shared a studio with Paul Gauguin, for a short time.

In 1894 Mucha gained fame with a commission for a poster for the actress, Sarah Bernard, a famous celebrity of her time. In the years that followed, Mucha designed all of Bernard's posters, as well as her theater decorations and costumes. With his newfound fame, Mucha was overcome with commissions for all kinds of commercial print advertising.

Mucha’s personal style was characterized by Art Nouveau, and his subjects were often images of fairy- like young women with long hair in refined costumes. This type of female image soon became his trademark. Lithography was the printing technique that Mucha used for his posters, which were usually signed in the block. Some of Mucha’s posters were produced as sets, for example “The Four Seasons”. These sets are among the most sought after of his works.

Mucha had his first one-man show in 1890 in Paris. In addition to prints, he also produced tissues, stamps and even bank bills. In 1900 the Austrian government commissioned Mucha to decorate the Austrian pavilion for the World Fair. He traveled frequently to the United States from 1904 to 1921, taking several commissions and teaching in New York and Chicago. When the German Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, Mucha’s popularity made him a target of the Gestapo, (the Nazi secret police) and he was arrested, interrogated and released, dying shortly afterwards in Prague.
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