The Sublime Art of Alphonse Mucha

Posted By yonghow on July 26th, 2009



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 โ€“ 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 timeย  – 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 ? :]

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Posted in Art, Illustration

21 Responses to “The Sublime Art of Alphonse Mucha”

Bitter Lix

“The moon and the stars” are amazing – i have never seen those. And by the way – japanese flyers always look best!

0ne

Do check out Michael Kaluta’s works too

patricio Roco from chili

exlelente blog es el que tienes. cada semana reviso los articulos son muy buenos saludos ….
me gusta mucho el estilo Art Nouveau, considero que fue un referente muy fuerte para el proceso de formacion del comic occidental.

Charles Santoso

Wow.. exhibition?!? You’re a luckyman ๐Ÿ™‚ I love Mucha too ๐Ÿ˜€ and that looks like a great reproduction of his works.. is that the exhibition catalogue? or from a book?

Cheers,
Charles

weigy

You know, Mucha is definitely up there but even when rounding up my favorite artists of all time I find out that I can’t ever pick one, ten or hundred… There’s so many astounding ones. I love museum visits!

Soshi

Oh wow. His art is breath-taking! I’ve seen his style copied many times on advertisements and posters but it’s only now that I see how the ‘originals’ are. Wow.

AndyH

Mucha is one of, perhaps my favourite artist of all time! I just love the shapes and linework. That ‘job’ cigarette paper illustration he did is one of my all time favourite images.
Great stuff. I really like the 4 seasons one too.

I brought 2 mucha artbooks in the UK, but strangely enough, one i randomly brought when i was in shanghai last year was the best one i have ever seen – chock full of his work.

rulascalaca

Noveau is definitely my favorite style, some modernist names are of course Mucha, Aubrey Beardsley and Walter Crane.

For modern artists i can say Yoshitaka Amano, Range Murata and Hayao Miyazaki wich u say is strongly influenced by noveau in his drawing arquitecture.

I like noveau because of it similitud with japanese graphics today, and as far as i recall noveau is strongly influenced by ukiyo-e japanese art.

Yonghow is so right, Superflat is pure anime, a hundrer years ahead time!

yeah! ๐Ÿ™‚

rulascalaca

CORRECTION: “For modern artists i can say Yoshitaka Amano, Range Murata and Hayao Miyazaki wich u* say is strongly influenced by noveau in his drawing arquitecture.”

*not “u say”, itยดs “i say”, sorry!

yonghow

Bitterlux – I couldn’t agree more – Japanese flyers and ticket stubs are the best. :]

one – Duly noted. THanks !

patricio Roco – Thanks for visiting !

Charles Santoso – Hey there Charles, the pictures were from the exhibition catalogue, but there are numerous fantastic Mucha artbooks in the market too I think.

weigy – I understand what you mean – I think I’m going to die of excitement if I ever get the visit the Louvre !

Soshi – Yes indeed, Mucha’s style still has a very big influence, especially on illustration work.

AndyH – Wow, a book from Shanghai ? Sounds exotic. Perhaps the UK one you own is published by Phaidon ?

rulascalaca – I’m not familiar with work by Aubrey Beardsley and Walter Crane, but now that you mentioned them I’ll be sure to take a look. Thanks ! :]

Charles Santoso

Heya again, Yonghow..
I’m still trying to find THE book.. I have 2 books already.. but both got a really bad reproduction ๐Ÿ™

yonghow

Charles – I think its almost a crime to publish bad reproductions of Mucha’s artwork ! If you ever come across THE book, please do let me know, I’ll love to get a copy myself. :]

taurie

Indeed Mucha’s art is astonishing. I hadn’t heard of him before I visited Prague, where you can find his works everywhere; but now he’s become one of my favourites ๐Ÿ™‚

Daniel

Mucha’s work truly was avant-garde for his time period, and is still just as fantastic as always.
I saw a few prints of his when I visited Paris a few weeks ago, but the book that you have photographed here Ive never seen before. Itd be great to have a copy of my own. Im sure the title of this book has been posted somewhere on this page but ive missed it somehow. Can anyone tell me the title? Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Maya

Same request…I love mucha and I bought a very good book about him but I don’t seem to find one with all his posters and series like the one you show here, so can you please tell me the title?

Keith

Mucha does have a very good method with the female figure. I especially like the “illustration” type paintings. Art Noveau never looked better.

piwackit

Here are some Mucha costumes some friends & I did for the 20098 San Diego Comic Con.

http://www.jayallan.com/seasons/2/

Josh

Revisiting your Mucha post….

I lived in Chiba all throughout 2005. I remember seeing the advertisements on the Yamanote Line for the Mucha exhibit….

One of my biggest regrets of all the things I didn’t do when I had the chance….why oh why didn’t I go to that exhibit??

Maybe someday it’ll come back…I don’t know. In the meantime…I can try to find the book. Not the same, but better than nothing!

Thanks for the awesome blogs showcasing such amazing artists!!!

Danielle

This was a great article, and a fun read…
but I think it’s worth mentioning that aside from the Slav Epic paintings that you speak of, Mucha’s advertisements are actually lithographs, not paintings. There is a lot more work that goes into making a lithograph, and precision in color and detail is extremely important, making his art work even more wonderful (as if it could get any better).

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