Image Source: A Yizzam Blog
Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Maria Mucha (1860 – 1939) was a true jack-of-all-trades for the arts.
Not only was artist Alphonse Mucha a renowned painter and illustrator, but he also worked in the fields of advertisement, graphic design, commercial art, theatrical poster production, decorative paneling, and jewelry making.
He also trained to become a singer in his youth but later decided to focus his career aspirations on the mediums of painting and graphic art instead.
This proved to be a wise choice as Mucha’s unique sketches, and drawings took him to such heights that allowed him to apply his trades in some of the largest metropolitan cities in the world, namely New York, Paris, and Prague.
During his professional career, he created some of the finest and most fabulously detailed paintings of the period and influenced the entire western art world with his fantastic illustration work.
The following are some of the not much-known facts about the Czech artist, some of which might shock you.
He Brought the Art Nouveau Movement to Paris
Alphonse Mucha did not invent art Nouveau, and there are even several Art Nouveau artists more famous than him.
However, he is credited with being the artist who introduced the style to the mass audience of Paris, which was seen as the central art hub in Western Europe at the time.
Mucha moved to the French capital in 1888 at the age of 28. During this time, he studied at two of the premier art schools in the city.
After his studies had finished, he worked as a freelance painter and illustrator for a while, scraping by as best he could.
Then, an opportunity arose which changed the Czech artist’s life forever.
French actress Sarah Berhardt hired Mucha to produce posters for her upcoming shows.
She loved Alphonse Mucha’s drawings so much that she had thousands of copies made and plastered them all over the streets of Paris.
By the time the first art nouveau exhibition in Paris came around in 1900, Mucha was the most famous face of the movement.
He Was the Leading Inspiration for the Invention of the Comic Book
The figures in Alphonse Mucha’s artwork are bold, brave, over the top, and highly stylized and fantasies.
They stand proud, unabashed, larger than life, and take center stage on the poster behind a glamorous backdrop just like that of any posing superhero.
Take his paintings of Medea, La Danse, and Gismonda as just three examples of many that showcase the stylized magnificence of characters that would soon become exclusive to that of the superhero.
To Mucha, what we see as superheroes today are merely modern amalgamations of Mythological heroes of old.
In these posters, it is easy to see how they influenced and even spearheaded the invention of both the superhero and the comic book.
All the heroic traits associated with modern-day characters from Marvel, X-Men, and DC owe much of their lineage to Mucha’s illustrations.
Mythology and Mysticism Heavily Influenced Him.
Despite becoming famous for his decorative Art Nouveau prints, Mucha’s real love was in Mythology and History.
The Czech artist felt that the purpose of art itself was to project the individual’s spiritual journey, as talked about in Myth.
This love of history is evident in the latter half of Mucha’s career, as he focused almost solely on this narrative.
He even moved back to his home country, leaving behind a successful career in America to pursue his passion.
Both Religion and Spiritualism were very important to Mucha.
These interests, accompanied by his love of history, culminated in an epic series of enormous murals known as the Slav epic.
Despite not reaching the same success as his earlier illustration work, he was most proud of his historical paintings.
He Was Friends With Paul Gauguin and Auguste Rodin.
Now, it is not uncommon for artists to be friends. Who is better to share ideas with and gain inspiration from than your fellow brothers and sisters in arms?
In the case of Alphonse Mucha and Paul Gauguin, it seems it was a real friendship, not just an artistic one.
When Gauguin returned to France from Tahiti, he was financially broke and had nowhere to stay.
Not only did Mucha allow the French artist to stay with him, but he also allowed Gauguin to use his studio and helped him prepare an exhibition for his Tahiti paintings.
Gauguin returned the appreciation by graciously posing as the model for several of Mucha’s drawings.
Mucha was also lucky to become friends with renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin.
The two became close friends over the years, and their works show a shared love for the human form.
For example, Mucha’s sculpture of the Nude on the Rock can be seen to show influences from Rodin’s style.
He Wasn’t Actually a Fan of Art Nouveau.
Believe it or not, it’s true. Mucha is publicly criticizing the Art Nouveau movement and its core principles.
Art Nouveau translates into English as House of the New Art. Mucha wholly disagreed with this idea stating publicly that “Art is something that can never be new.”
It might sound like a strange statement at first, as most of his success stemmed from the movement; however, there is some poignant truth to the statement.
In Mucha’s mind, all art owes its origins and inspiration to something that came before it, including his own.
Take a landscape painting, for example. The painting may be new, but the cliffs and ocean are millions of years old.
Practically all the greatest and most famous paintings from history can trace their roots back to even earlier sources.
Even many of Mucha’s drawings were based on inspiration from mythological symbols and ideas, thus proving his point.
The Bottom Line
For Alphonse Mucha, art wasn’t about becoming famous or making money. For him, it was about following your heart and finding your bliss.
This attitude and love for the craft are evident in every one of the unique sketches and drawings he left behind for us to admire and appreciate.