Czech Center: Czech out the Artist Alphonse Mucha

The artwork to the left is in his early career in the class Mucha Art Nouveau style while the one on the right is pained after he went to America to pursue portrait painting.  His early works were of advertisements where Mucha did give his women spaghetti-like hair. He was also inspired by a stain glass window in churches and this is reflected in his backgrounds as well. His women have an ethereal or goddess likes quality about them. You will read more about the painting of Josephine later on in this post.

 

I presented few years back on an artist Alphonse Mucha for the Czech Center. Here are some of my notes from my slides and two images I am using from website Pixaby of his work. Mucha was born in Ivance Moravia in 1860. Had taken art lessons that would help develop various skills such as Stage painting, portrait painting, and drawing. He would later combine his influences to make his own unique style. Posters were the way to get notice in Paris; this is what made Mucha’s stand out.

His poster work in Paris after his creative portrayal of the famous actress Sarah Barnhart is what set his style apart. In one of many was the length of his posters, they were very elongated this lead to the theft of his works, as this was new and exciting.

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Sarah is the central figure in this work for her play Gismonda. The long frame has her not only look slimmer but adds a dramatic effect as well. Byzantine style, flowers and muted colors also add visual balance.

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Josephine Crane Bradly as Slavia

This last work by Mucha is very interesting. The portrait is oil on canvas. Josephine Crane Bradley is the American modeling for the work.  In this work she is the personification of Mucha’s people, the Slavic’s.

Josephine is “sitting in a carved chair in front of a linden tree” (Mucha, Sovon 36). The only part of the chair that is visible is the upper right back rest and a black bird on a branch.

Slavia has ribbons and a crown of leaves. Her Slavic appearance may or may not be traditional Slavic Clothing.

A sword rests on her lap, meaning she will, as the Slavic people do, defend herself if need be, but in general is peaceful. The two smaller birds sitting on her lap show that she is gentle. Once again the circle appears many times in this work, a large one in the background with smaller ones around the inside. They are full of flowers. She holds up a large ring or circle that could be unity.

On her chest is a decorative clasp and flowing sleeves with flowers at the end. Josephine sits stately and regal as Slavia. The pink softens the work and adds a feminine touch. This work was later used a model for the one-hundred bank-note in Mucha’s home country. Like so many other works by Mucha, the Josephine painting is full of symbolism, flowers and women. Mucha is said to have designed the frame for this one as well. (Mucha Foundation web).

The last of the three women in this paper is Josephine Crane Bradley as Slavia. It’s hard to see any American connection to this work. It you did not know Josephine was American and painted in the U. S., you probably would never know. However, her impact on Mucha was the greatest through her family. Though Mucha painted Josephine in 1907, he met the Crane family much earlier in 1904 and never lost touch. Later on “when Crane’s daughter Josephine married Harold C. Bradley, her father had a house build for them by Louis Sullivan at a cost of $50,000 and commissioned Mucha to paint a portrait of Mrs. Josephine Crane Bradley, representing the symbolic figure of Slavia.” (Mucha, Jeri 236).

Because of the passion of both men, Mucha and Crane saw to the funding and Mucha would later paint his Slavic Epic. Mucha’s trip to America paid off; he finally received the funding to paint his large canvases. Mucha’s vision of the Slavic Epic meant he could show his people in a variety of scenes, everyday scenes and moments of glory to capture the pride of the people. It was also going to be on a massive scale.

See some of his work here in this link.

The rich style of Mucha’s work encapsulates a man of many talents who was both a master in Art Nouveau and a very good portrait painter. In his later years he did accomplish his Slavic epic. Massive canvases that he climbed in his old age and to show the pride of his people, by this time it was not well received. As this time of nationalism work had fallen out of favor.

Today in the Czech Republic his work is much loved. His work is making a comeback in the US as well and in particular Houston’s own Czech Center. See post about that here.

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