If ever I were asked to name my favourite Fine Art artist of all time, Mucha would certainly be one of my top choices – right up there with John William Waterhouse. I lucidly remember chancing upon one of his art books in my school library and been utterly captivated by the sheer beauty and elegance of his paintings. Little did I know that years later I would have the chance to see his original work in person – certainly one of the best art exhibitions I’ve ever been to.
Alphonse Mucha (24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939) was a prolific Czech painter/illustrator/sculptor who, together with the work of several other luminaries like Gustav Klimt and Gaudi, came to be known as the movement Art Noveau. ( meaning “New Art” in French. )
And what a fitting name, because the work that Mucha did was devastatingly ahead of his time – he painted in a very graphic, decorative style totally unheard (unseen) in that period, with color palettes that were very often subdued and pastel like, and used thick, bold lines to highlight his subject of interest. None of these may sound particularly advant-garde today, but bear in mind Mucha was applying these techniques a full hundred years ago, at about the height of his career.
Mucha was also a master of composition and art direction – if he were born today Mucha would no doubt be one heck of a fashion photographer. He also draws beautiful, beautiful hands – just the Japanese comic artist Samura Hiroaki. (Blade of the Immortal)
(above) The amount of detail in Mucha’s paintings are absolutely astounding. His illustration style has been excessively copied and imitated, particularly the decorative halo that forms the background in many of his poster designs, as well as the elaborate flower motifs. (below) One of my favourite from his series of posters illustrations, “The Moon and the Stars”.
(above) Mucha, master draughtsman. The small pictures here do no justice to his work; to fully appreciate the intricate details of these drawings one has to see the originals.
(above) Mucha was creating “Superflat”, anime like visuals a century ago. Indeed, many anime illustrations/posters today continue to pay tribute to Mucha’s style of drawing – I must have seen no less than a dozen such work. (below) Mucha’s oil paintings are no less impressive than his illustrations – in the later part of his life Mucha started work on his masterpiece “The Slav Epic”, a collection of 20 giant murals depicting the history of the Czech.
(above) “Tragedy”, a huge painting over a metre high that I stood and admired for the longest time during the exhibition – mostly because I was so amazed by Mucha’s (seemingly, I could be wrong) use of juxtaposition/overlapping of images, something very cinematic in nature and probably not common fare for a painting done a hundred years ago.
(above) The ticket stub for the Mucha Exhibition I attended (twice) in 2005 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, showcasing over 200 pieces of his work. In hindsight, I should have gone thrice.
Next up, a Waterhouse post, maybe ? Who is your favourite artist of all time ? :]1