Alfons Mucha, the Czech Art Nouveau, or Secession painter and decorative artist, was born at Ivancice, a Moravian town in the Kingdom of Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic on July 24, 1860. He was the son of a local court usher and his wife, a former governess.
Mucha (pronounced “mookah”) loved art as a child but studied on a choral scholarship at the Church of St Peter in Brno, the capital of Moravia. In 1871, Mucha became a choir boy at St. Peter's Cathedral in Brno, where Alphonse Maria Mucha was attending grammar school. Alphonse Maria Mucha pursued singing seriously for a while, but was forced to abandon it after his voice started cracking in 1875. Instead, Mucha took up drawing lessons.
In 1882 he started to earn a living by painting portraits in Mikulov. At 29 years of age, he emigrated to Paris. Before arriving in Paris in 1888, Czech-born Mucha had attempted, and failed, to enter the Prague Academy of Fine Arts.
Alphonse had two sisters: Anna and Anděla. His father Ondřej worked as an usher in the local district court and Ondřej’s second wife Amalia was a daughter of a rich miller (Kusák & Kadlečíková, 2000). Already as a boy, Alphonse liked to draw pictures and sketch other people he was also talented in singing. Thanks to his unusual voice, he got a choral scholarship at St Peter’s Church in Brno (Duane, 1996). He painted murals and oils in traditional historical and religious motifs on commission from many sources, but he aspired to be a serious artist and pursued formal training in Prague and Munich.
MARRIAGE TO MARUSKA CHYTILOVA
Mucha married Maruška (Marie/Maria) Chytilová on June 10, 1906, in Prague. The couple visited the U.S. from 1906 to 1910, during which time their daughter, Jaroslava, was born in New York City. They also had a son, Jiri, (born March 12, 1915 in Prague; died April 5, 1991 in Prague) who later became a well known journalist, writer, screenwriter, author of autobiographical novels and studies of the works of his father. The artist’s work became quickly a part of everyday life; posters, decorative panels, biscuit boxes, chocolate bars and perfumes or liqueur bottles with labels designed by Mucha were sold everywhere (Ellridge, 1992).
THE INFLUENCE OF JAPONISME
Japonisme" is a term coined by French art-critic Philippe Burty in 1876 to describe the craze for things Japanese. ""From 1620 until Commodore Perry's squadron sailed into Edo Bay (later called Tokyo Bay), Japan had practiced a policy of rigid isolation and the exclusion of foreigners.
In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Japan's experiences with Western missionaries and traders had been so negative that almost all contact with the outside world was broken off. Only the Dutch, Chinese, and Koreans were allowed to trade through one small port. The United States hoped Japan would agree to open certain ports so American vessels could begin to trade with the mysterious island kingdom. In addition to interest in the Japanese market, America needed Japanese ports to replenish coal and supplies for the commercial whaling fleet.
Following Commodore Perry's opening of the door of Japan to the outside world in 1858--ending a 200-year period of total isolation--a wealth of visual information from the superb Japanese traditions of ceramics, metalwork, and architecture, as well as print-making and painting, reached the West and brought electrifying new ideas on composition, color, and design.
In 1889, at the Paris World Exhibition, Mucha first saw Japanese prints, which with their flat surfaces and graceful curving outlines, influenced him deeply. He gradually incorporated those elements into his own art. In 1892 he executed his first lithographs.
When the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia and divided the country up into Bohemia and Moravia and Slovakia in 1939, Mucha was one of the first of those arrested by the Gestapo. He was released shortly afterwards, but became ill with pneumonia. He died on July 14, 1939, just before his seventy-ninth birthday.His wife Marie, daughter Jaroslava, and son Jiří were left alone after Mucha’s death, and The Slav Epic remained uncompleted.
Art Nouveau is an international movement and style of art, architecture developed in the 1880's and 1890's. It dervies from the name Maison de l'Art Nouveau, an interior design gallery opened in Paris in 1896. It has been applied to art—especially the decorative arts—that peaked in popularity at the turn of the 20th century (1890–1905).
The name 'Art nouveau' is French for 'new art'. It is also known as Jugendstil, German for 'youth style', named after the magazine Jugend, which promoted it, and in Italy, Stile Liberty from the department store in London, Liberty & Co., which popularized the style. A reaction to academic art of the 19th century, it is characterized by organic, especially floral and other plant-inspired motifs, as well as highly-stylized, flowing curvilinear forms. Art Nouveau is an approach to design according to which artists should work on everything from architecture to furniture, making art part of everyday life.
The movement was strongly influenced by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, when Mucha produced a lithographed poster, which appeared on 1 January 1895 in the streets of Paris as an advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou, starring Sarah Bernhardt. It was an overnight sensation, and announced the new artistic style and its creator to the citizens of Paris. Initially called the Style Mucha, (Mucha Style), this soon became known as Art Nouveau.
Alphonse Mucha is one of Prague's best-known painters and a representative of the Art Nouveau artistic movement of the early 20th century. He is probably most famed for his commercial art, which included posters, postage stamps, and banknotes. However, he was a serious artist.
Jiri, Alphonse Mucha's son, was a BBC correspondent during the war, and a political prisoner in the 1950s. Jiri Mucha promoted the Art Nouveau paintings of his father. Alfons Mucha's artwork was first denounced by Hitler, and Mucha's Slav works were repressed behind the Iron Curtain for decades. When Jiri lived behind the Iron Curtain, he possessed no copyrights for these paintings. His father, was interrogated by the Gestapo immediately after the occupation, and this interrogation contributed to his death soon afterwards.
Jiri Mucha returned home for his father's funeral, despite the occupation, and remained in the country for a month, before obtaining permission from the German authorities to leave the country as a war correspondent. He went to France and joined up with other Czechs fighting against the German invasion in 1940. Jiri Mucha's health continued to fail, and on April 5th, 1991, shortly after his seventy-sixth birthday, he passed away in Prague.
Portrait of Jaroslava (Jarca), is a portrait of Mucha's daughter signed and dated 'Mucha 29' (lower centre) pencil and coloured crayon heightened with white on blue paper. The Mucha Museum in Prague is the only museum in the world dedicated to the Czech artist. All its exhibits come from the painter's own family and they cover every period of Mucha's life and career.
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