Friday, June 8, 2012

Designer of the Month: Alphonse Mucha

I have often had a hard time remembering names and dates. Images come to me easily; faces are only a problem so far as recalling the names of the people attached to them (which can prove to be difficult), and I've pretty much given up on all but a few really key dates in history ( among them are a few of the American history biggies, both World Wars - 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, respectively - and a few favorite World's Fairs, including Chicago in 1893 and 1936 in New York). So when I was trying to describe the work of Alphonse Mucha (1860-1839) to Patrick, it wasn't a surprise that I initially blanked on the name. Let's not get into the shameful fact that I have a degree in decorative arts and design history, and that this should have been a piece of cake for me. The salient feature about said designer that I could recall was the Art Nouveau movement. In fact, Mucha and Art Nouveau are inextricably linked in my mind, and for good reason.

Alphonse Mucha, half-length portrait, facing rightc1906. Copyright by Geo. K. Lawrence Co., Chicago. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Mucha was one the most noted artists of the period, with his work tied to Art Nouveau to such an extent that the entire movement was at one time referred to as 'Style Mucha'.[1] Made famous by his poster design for Parisian actress Sarah Bernhardt, Mucha found success through his designs for her productions. This led to a commercial career designing advertising and art posters, helping to popularize the Art Nouveau style and allowing it to reach a wide, international audience. Although almost totally forgotten within a few years of his death, with the style he helped popularize considered outdated, Mucha's legacy was revived after the post-war years, with his work achieving a level of fame and recognition that would have been unimaginable during his lifetime.[2] And so, for the month of June, we'll take a look at the life and career of Czech painter and Art Nouveau master, Alphonse Mucha. I hope you'll join me.

[1] Victor Arwas, Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985), 7.

[2] Ibid., 7.

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