Thursday, December 31, 2009

Popular in the 60's, Alphonse Mucha

Alphonse Mucha was a Czech born , Parisian artist. Born in 1860 he started his art career painting theatrical scenery, before moving to Paris to study at the Academie Julien. In 1895 Mucha produced a poster for a play starring then famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. The poster was a sensation and launched Muchas career as a designer of posters and other commercial art.

His style was so influential that he was widely imitated and many of his ideas became part of an art and design movement, art nouveau. Based on natural forms abstracted and decorating classically draped figures Mucha was enormously influential in his time. Muchas writhing line, decorative flattening, pastel colors, and astronomical references were a language he could deploy for almost any product. His lovely women with their long necks. hairpieces of flowers and the occasional halo were charming and elegant

In the 1960's he was rediscovered and his work was again influential. Psychedelic art rifled his ideas. When you see the art of Peter Max or the Beatles cartoon Yellow Submarine, those are 1960's rehashing of Muchas ideas.

Rock music albums and the "head comix" of that era used a lot of frankly derivative copies of his work. He was often not credited. But posters of his work becoming available and hanging in college dorm rooms, and black light pharmaceutical recreation areas across the nation made him a popular artist for a few years there.

Mucha returned to Prague in the 1920's and began work on a series of enormous paintings in a cycle entitled The Apotheosis of the Slavs. They were unknown to us in the 60's, so I will return to them later. They were thought dangerously nationalistic by the invading Nazis in the thirties. In 1939 immediately after the invasion by Germany, Mucha was arrested by the Gestapo and questioned ruthlessly. His health failed and although released, he died of a lung ailment shortly thereafter, certainly as a result of his mistreatment at Nazi hands.

images courtesy of Go check em out, the links in my sidebar, great site!


Unknown said...

Did he influence Parrish? Or the other way around? Looks like one or the other to me.

James Gunter said...

A few years ago I bought the book, "Alphonse Mucha: The Spirit Of Art Nouveau" by Victor Arwas,Jana Brabcova,and Anna Dvorak, With contributions by several other authors, including Geraldine Mucha. It's a good size book, 322 pages, 248 color plates and 112 b&w illustrations. I've leafed
through this book many times. Although Mucha's posters and illustrations, of course, lack many of the qualities of his paintings, the grace and beauty of line and gesture in his figures are what I enjoy most in these works. The dazzling ornamentation in these posters are a lot of fun, too.

I appreciate the time and effort, and all the great information, you put into this blog. I look forward to your post about Mucha's paintings.

Jo-Ann Sanborn said...

Just want to tell you how much your blog is enjoyed each day. I look forward to the great mix of practical art sense, history, nostalgia and the unexpected laugh-out-louds! Thank you, and best wishes for a Happy New Year.

billspaintingmn said...

I have also wondered if Parrish and
Mucha drew from the same well.
I gravitated to Parrish.
Mucha seemed foreign to me. said...

Besides being popular in the 60's did Mucha do anything that was more innovative than what was being done at the same time as his contemporaries in Art Nouveau period?He seems to me to be on an equal as many but bot as good as a few -Klimt. Was he popular because the 60's psychedelic flavored rock posters?

I'd like to think that art dealers move the art out as in "sell" but the reality of it is in Boston, many who own galleries just "gallery" the art. They will continue to be gallerists to me. And of course spell check flags it;it's a Microsoft program and not the be all of spelling and vocabulary absolutes.Microsoft word also flags Art Nouveau.

Mary Bullock said...

I absolutely love Mucha and Parrish. Memphis brought exhibitions of each painter to a museum there and I was able to go and drool over their work up close and personal. I went many, many times and sketched. The size of their paintings and posters was really startling.

barbara b. land of boz said...

What a different time and place the 60's brought to this ole "flower child". It was the album covers that called to me in those days (among other things). I am formerly trained as a commercial artist. How ever I have been training in the fine arts for the last 3 years. Through private lessons, workshops, and studying the old and new Masters.
Artists like Mucha don't always get their just due. Thank you once again for bringing another sleeper out of the woodwork. Happy New Year!!
barbara b "land of boz"

CM said...

I cannot imagine a day without a Stapleton Kearns "blog-fix". Happy New Year and Thank You again for sharing your wealth of knowledge.
Corinne McIntyre

Stapleton Kearns said...

Several of you have asked that. I hadn't noticed a similarity.But if their was an influence I guess it would have gone from Mucha to Parrish.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jim G.
Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you for following along!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Again I don't see the similarity. But of the two I prefer Mucha.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think most of his art nouveau contemporary's were imitating him. He was a big influence on the psychedelic posters of the area.


Stapleton Kearns said...

I visited that museum once!Also the meusum downtown dedicated to the Memphis Rock and Roll! Go Booker T.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It has been fun resurrecting the 60's
Have another hit!

Stapleton Kearns said...


Happy New Year to you too.

Unknown said...

I like this one.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes, that is really a good one.

Unknown said...

Happy New Year and I hope you find the enjoyment and time to continue working on this blog, it's informative and entertaining, God Bless you and yours in the New Year and hopefully this dreadful economy will some day end and I'll book one of your workshops.

Love2paint said...

Stape, I first discovered Maxfield Parrish on my grandmother`s wall as a child. She received a large, framed GE print of "The Egyptian" as a wedding gift in 1920. I used to stare at that image and it became embedded in my mind, it is so beautiful and illuminates as it has some special glowing paint in it. I have inherited the print although I have allowed my mother to keep it hung in her NY home. Decades later, I made a friend in South Laguna, CA who had her bathroom wallpapered with Alphonse Mucha`s works designed by a wallpaper company. It was on her walls for 30+ years and I visited her often. When it came time to use the bathroom, well, you can imagine how an artist would have his gorgeous art right in your face, I fell in love with his works too. She moved a few years ago and found a few rolls of the printed wallpaper that she never hung and gave them to me. So, I do love them both. A few weeks ago, I was in the Irvine Art Museum and read that Alson Skinner Clark painted with Alphonse Mucha in Paris. That surprised me and delighted me all the same. My same friend who had Mucha`s wallpaper also used to live in the same house owned by Alson Clark in the 1950`s in the Arroyo Seco near Pasadena, CA. Alson Skinner Clark was a great CA impressionist painter. Clark painted a large mural on the diningroom wall in that home. Coincidence? Maybe Clark was influenced by Mucha in the theatrical murals. When that house was sold, there was a stipulation that the mural had to be preserved on the wall and not painted over. i wonder if it is still there. So, you can see that artists did influence each other.