Friday, August 31, 2012

Mucha, Alphonse Maria

Autumn from The Seasons Series
Color lithograph
103 x 54 cm
private collection

Alfons Maria Mucha (1860-1939), known in English as Alphonse Mucha, was born in Moravia (now in the Czech Republic, then part of the Austrian Empire). He was a prolific key figure artist of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries who produced a flurry of paintings, posters, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewellery, wallpaper, theater sets, etc. in what was termed Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau. His works frequently featured beautiful healthy young women in flowing vaguely Neoclassical looking robes, surrounded by lush flowers which formed halos behind the women's heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors.
The Art Nouveau style, however, was one that he attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more.

The rising tide of fascism during the late 1930s resulted in Mucha's works, as well as his Slavic nationalism, being denounced in the press as 'reactionary'. When German troops moved into Czechoslovakia during the spring of 1939, Mucha was among the first persons to be arrested by the Gestapo. During his interrogation, the aging artist became ill with pneumonia. Though released eventually, he died in Prague on 14 July 1939, of a lung infection, and was interred there in the
Vyšehrad cemetery.