You must have heard about Alphonse Mucha. If not, you have probably seen his distinctive Art Nouveau images on posters, cups or place mats, it’s just that you don’t know it. He’s associated with the famous French actress Sarah Berhardt. He was one of the leading Czech artists of the early 20th century. If you want to know more about Alphonse Mucha (Alfons Mucha in Czech) and his work, Prague is an excellent place to start.
Alphonse Mucha was born in Moravia in 1860. He showed his talent for drawing in school and it became his main hobby. At the beginning of his career, he painted theatrical scenery and murals, while continuing his education. In 1887 Mucha moved to Paris, where he produced illustrations and studied at the same time.
Alphonse Mucha in Paris
It was in Paris that his association with Sarah Bernhardt began. A print shop needed a poster for a play featuring the actress and Mucha volunteered to produce it within two weeks. The artist duly created the advertisement, for the play Gismonda, and the design attracted considerable interest. Bernhardt was so pleased with the poster that she worked with Mucha for six years. Mucha is most famous for his Art Nouveau designs featuring beautiful women in flowing robes. He produced such work in the early years of the 20th century, but he later turned his back on this kind of art, which he regarded as “commercial”.
After his experience in Paris, Mucha moved back to the Czech lands in 1910. As a committed Czech patriot, he started designing coins, banknotes and posters for the new state of Czechoslovakia, which was established in 1918. Mucha also traveled the Balkan to study Slavonic habits and customs.
The Slav Epic
During this period he created his most famous work, the Slav Epic (Slovanská epopej in Czech). It is a series of 20 large canvases depicting the history of the Czechs and other Slavic nationalities. The paintings were finished in 1928, and Mucha gifted them to the city of Prague on condition that a special pavilion be built to house them. However, the city of Prague did not fulfil this requirement. Following years the Slav Epic has been displayed in the château at Moravský Krumlov in Moravia. You can read more about this work in our article about Slav Epic. It is currently on an exhibition tour in Asia.
To conclude, we have a recommendation for lovers and admirers of Mucha’s work. Visit the Museum of Alfons Mucha in Panska Street in Prague. Moreover, it is not far away from our Bohemia Apartments Prague.