Alphonse Mucha is known for the popularity of his posters as he was an early graphic designer.
Alphonse Mucha was born in Ivance Moravia in 1860. One of his local experiences of attending church would impact his art. He was influenced by Byzantine art in the churches with the golden and colorful mosaics.
In 1906 Mucha goes to Paris to study and create art. He is funded by a supporter back home. The funds run out and its Christmas time. Too poor to go back for the holidays Mucha works at the Renaissance theatre checking art proofs.
The famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt does not like the poster made by an artist on holiday. She asks Mucha if he will do a new one. He did and how.
While this poster above is not the famous start for Mucha it’s very similar. She love it so much he got a six year contract.
Mucha’s style of art was copied and stolen right out of the poster holders on Paris streets. At this time they were able to print Lithographs. This made it easy to create many cheaply and post them around. Posters were the hit way in Paris to get noticed.
Mucha changes the poster entirely by one simple thing. He elongated the poster. Mucha like many artists since Van Gogh were influenced by Japanese prints. They were tight and not cluttered in the background. It focused on one scene or image.
He meets a man while in Paris and later becomes a Freemason. More on that here.
After his six year contract is up Mucha decides to follow his dream of being a portrait painter in America. He travels to America many times. On one of his trips he meets famous Americans on the way over. A notable one is the Rockefeller’s.
He hits America soil and uses his Paris fame to land a job teaching art at The Art Insatiute of Chicago. He does this while painting theaters and designing posters.
He finally gets a change to head back home and he gets married. A baby boy soon follows and his name is Jiri.
On another trip on the ship ride over he meets Charles Crane. This oil man and art lover will fund his Slavic Epic. Mucha made art for his home country.
Mucha designed currency and stamps. Now Crane wants to tap into that. His daughter Josephine is of age to be married. To show her eligibility Mucha paints this American as the spirit of the Slavic people. The black eagle is on the Slavic coat of arms.
Mucha works on his Slavic epic over ten years funded by the billionaire Crane. It covers the mythology and early history of the Slavic people. Mucha ever the patriot made it clear that his epic was to be for all people not just those of Slavic descendants.
While Mucha finished his masterworks of the epic this was in his 70’s and the Great War was on. He was stressed about this. His time as a writer and active Freemason did get him interrogated by the Nazi’s. (See the Mucha Freemason post and information on the Monuments Men.)
His art was moved to protect it from the Germans. His son Juri kept it safe. His legacy was a family affair until the take over of this task by The Mucha Foundation.
Mucha passed away shortly before his 79 birthday. His art is loved by the Czech people today. One place they can go to see it is in Prague. His legacy was one of a traveler who saw the world through art and wanted to give people something to connect to. He most certainly did.