Alphonse Mucha

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Alphonse Mucha (Czech 1860-1939) is ironically considered one of the great Art Nouveau artists. "Ironic" because Mucha repeatedly stated that he detested the Art Nouveau style, which, many authorities say, is a fair statement, since Mucha's own work was original and created independent of the movement's influence. Nonetheless, his linear, asymmetrical style, which permanently influenced illustrative design, is now considered synonymous with Art Nouveau.

The Art Nouveau movement began in London in 1880 but quickly moved through Europe. It was mainly practiced in the decorative arts, like furniture and jewelry design, as well as book and advertising illustration. It was typified by asymmetrical, linear, and often symbolically erotic, graphic styles. Mucha may have not cared much for Art Nouveau, but he was passionate about bringing fine art to the people. His illustrations for theatre posters and regular objects like matchbook covers, soaps, and tobacco papers made him a star in his day. His work continues to be extraordinarily popular.

Alphonse Mucha: Illustrator Extraordinaire

The work of Mucha is most closely associated with the European theatre scene. He created several theatre posters for the Theatre Renaissance and for other European theatre spots. The posters he designed for legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt are considered the best examples of the style in existence.

Alphonse Mucha adored Byzantine patterns, and students of graphic illustration to this day study Mucha's ability to take a single pattern and repeat it endlessly. Twirling, entwining tendrils of hair meet twirling, entwining plant leaves and roots, over a heavily patterned background. There is something mythological about his work, and he explores the beauty of feminine nature repeatedly. Excellent examples of his style are the above-mentioned theatre posters, as well as illustrations he created for product advertisements, like the designs for Moet et Chandon champagne and Job tobacco papers.

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