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Definition: Mucha, Alphonse from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


Alfons Maria Mucha


Czech graphic artist, painter and designer

Born in Ivancise, he studied in Munich, Vienna, and at the Académie Julian and the Académie Colarossi, Paris. He designed jewellery, wallpaper and furniture, but his best-known works are his posters for Sarah Bernhardt, in the rich curvilinear Art Nouveau style of the 1890s. He designed a shop for a jeweller in Paris in 1901, before devoting himself mainly to painting from c.1903. He returned to Prague in 1914, where he painted a series of 20 monumental pictures, The Slav Epic.

Summary Article: Mucha, Alphonse (1860–1939)
From The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Graphic Design and Designers

Poster artist, illustrator and designer. Born in Moravia, Czechoslovakia. From 1879 he worked as a theatrical scene painter in Vienna where a benefactor recognized his talent and financed his studies in Munich (1884–87) and in Paris (1888). Remaining in Paris, he designed his first stamps (1889) and numerous posters throughout the early 1890s. In 1894 he brilliantly exploited an opportunity to design a life-size poster for Sarah Bernhardt as Gismonda. This richly textured poster was a sensation, leading to a six-year contract from Bernhardt and providing the basis for his subsequent success as the archetypal art nouveau designer. For the next decade his prolific output- embracing posters, magazines, books, calendars, packaging, textiles and jewelry — provided some of the best examples of the Art Nouveau style. His beautiful women, centrally located within the poster frame and surrounded by elaborate plants and flowing organic forms, became icons of a glamorous era. Although acknowledging the earlier achievements of Jules chéret and Eugène grasset, le style Mucha was richer in decoration and more obviously stylized. An exhibition of his chromolitho-graphy posters, first held in Paris in 1897, travelled to other European cities and then to New York. Posters of note thereafter include those for Job cigarette papers (1898) and Moët & Chandon (1899). In the early years of the 20th c. Mucha's success enabled him to travel and work in Paris, America and his native Czechoslovakia. About 1910 he returned permanently to Czechoslovakia, where he produced a major set of twenty murals, Slav Epic, which outlined the history of his nation. In 1918 he designed the stamps celebrating Czechoslovakia's new-found freedom of 1917. He died in 1939, some months after being interrogated by the Nazis, following their occupation and partitioning of Czechoslovakia.

Thames & Hudson © 2012

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