Czech Republic • 1860−1939

Alphonse Mucha (Czech Alfons Maria Mucha; July 24, 1860, Ivančice - July 14, 1939, Prague) is a Czech artist and designer, one of the most prominent representatives of the Art Nouveau style.

Features of the work of the artist Alphonse Mucha: author of grandiose picturesque "Slavic epic " (20 paintings measuring 6x8 meters), during his lifetime, Mucha was popular as a designer - he masterfully invented jewelry, advertising posters and theater posters, which Sarah Bernard herself was delighted with.

Famous works of Alphonse Mucha: series "Seasons", "Zodiac", poster for the play "Gismond".

Alfonso Muchu, who was called a brilliant artist during his lifetime, would now be called a brilliant designer. Indeed, for the sake of justice, it’s worth saying that his paintings, including the famous series “Slavic Epic”, were not nearly as popular as the replicated images of romantic beauties from posters and labels. The artist reached such a level of mastery in the Art Nouveau style that he was even called the "Fly style" for some time. Even now it is in the style of the Fly that fashionable prints for clothes and accessories are created, various printing productsand even tattoos.

Random fame of artist Alphonse Mucha

1893 year. Christmas is coming. The brilliant actress Sarah Bernhardt decides to resume the demonstration of the performance of Gismond, for which it appears necessary to urgently produce new posters. The only available artist on holidays is a certain Alphonse Mucha, who agrees to fulfill the order.

Soon after, the artist, as they say, "woke up famous." Sarah Bernhardt was so excited from his workthat entered into a six-year contract with Alfons Mucha. However, it can be assumed that the actress did this not so much because of the talent of the Fly, but because of her own vanity. 50-year-old Bernard was flattered by the way the artist portrayed her. Just the way she imagined herself - young and slim. It can be said that thanks to Mucha, the brilliant actress opened a “second wind”, which made Bernard even more popular. And along with it, a star rose and the previously unknown artist Alphonse Mucha.

Naturally, over the years of their cooperation, there have been many rumors that the artist and actress were connected not only by business, but also by romantic relationships. It was difficult to doubt, given the fact that Bernard was famous for the number of novels. However, later in letters to his wife Maria Mucha, he will argue that he developed an exclusively friendly relationship with the actress. This, incidentally, is evidenced by the correspondence of the artist and with Bernard herself.

Under the happy star

Years of collaboration with Sarah Bernhardt began the most fruitful period in the work of the artist Alphonse Mucha. In addition to posters for the performances of the actress ("Lady with Camellias", 1896; "Medea", 1898; "Hamlet", 1899) he creates theatrical scenery, sketches of costumes, jewelry. Works on covers and illustrations. for the magazine "Kokoriko"over interior design and various labels, advertising posters (one of the most famous was created by him for soap "Bagnolet") And while, oddly enough, he still has time to create amazing portraits "for the soul." This is how the “women of the Fly”, which made him famous all over the world, appear: passionate, sensual, tender, sometimes half-naked and always surrounded by a halo of long, bizarre hair style. During this period, Alphonse Mucha creates his famous series of portraits: "The Seasons" (1, 2, 3, 4), "Gems" (1, 2, 3), "Stars" (1, 2, 3) and "Flowers" (1, 2, 3, 4).

The fly quickly became the soul of Parisian secular society. One of his close friends was Paul Gauguin, and with many other artists, Mucha developed a friendly relationship. The public admired his work and filled up his orders: everyone wanted to have something "from the Fly." The artist no longer needed money and was able to afford to buy any beautiful thing that caught his eye (because of which the artist’s apartment looked more like a museum). It would seem that all that remained was to live and enjoy ...

But how did Alphonse Mucha get tired of all this! From the fact that here they call him Musha. From the fact that customers always wanted to get something "exactly the same as in the picture, but a little different." From pretentious and too liberated Parisians ... The artist was desperately lonely and yearned for his homeland.

Artist Alphonse Mucha Born July 24, 1860 in the small Moravian town of Ivančice. After the death of Alfons' mother, the petty judicial officer Ondrei (Andrzej) Mucha had to raise five children from two marriages alone. Nevertheless, he managed to discern artistic talent in his son. He even wrote to the Prague Academy of Arts with a request to accept Alfons for training. However, then in the works of the boy they did not see talent. For a while, Alfons worked in a local court as a boring clerk, devoting his free time to creating sets and posters for amateur theater. It was this hobby that allowed him to finally receive an invitation to study in Vienna and find a wealthy patron who paid for the education of Mucha at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1887, Alphonse Mucha will move to Paris and will study at the two most famous and prestigious art schools of the time - the Academy of Julian and the Academy of Colarossi. But this is the end of the tale. Due to financial difficulties, the cartridge of the Fly Count Kuen-Belassi could no longer supply money to his ward, and the young artist quickly became aground. Very often he had to choose between buying food and paints. He clutched at any work: he drew business cards and invitations, advertising posters and posters, menus for restaurants and labels. This continued until the end of 1893. Acquaintance with Sarah Bernhardt and sudden fame allowed the artist to again believe in his lucky star.

Two loves of artist Alphonse Mucha

Despite the sharp increase in popularity, Mucha, unlike many of his colleagues, did not use its light fruits. There were very few women in his life, and he did not spread about his novels. In fact, up to 43 years, the artist lived ascetic. In particular, due to the fact that in French women he could not find anything related, consonant with his Slavic soul. Here Mukha was lucky again: fate found him herself. Young Maria Khitilova, who arrived in Paris from Prague in 1903, saw the artist in the theater and fell in love. She herself arranged their first meeting and remained with Mukha until his death.

In letters to his beloved Marushka, the artist admitted that he had loved only once before, at the age of 16. But then the life of his beloved took the disease. Mucha married Mary in 1906. They played the wedding in a small Czech village, instead of having a magnificent celebration in Paris.

By that time, artist Alphonse Mucha already clearly understood that he should return to the Czech Republic at all costs. Up to this point, most of his works deified and idealized the image of a Western woman. But after meeting Maria, all these languid and sexy beauties fade into the background. In addition, since the beginning of the twentieth century, popularity modernbegins to plummet. The artist is again in debt and, on the advice of Sarah Bernhardt, decides to make money in the States by writing paintings depicting the wives of millionaires.

The New York Daily News celebrated the arrival of Flies with a seven-page special issue. But in the New World, the artist was known only as the creator of posters, and as a portrait painter, he did not succeed. However, fate was again favorable to him. At one of the receptions, Mucha met the son of a millionaire Charles Richard Crane, who shared the Pan-Slavic ideas of the artist and volunteered to finance his most ambitious work - “Slavic Epic”. Thanks to financial support from Crane, Mucha was finally able to return to her native Czech Republic and began work on a cycle of twenty huge canvases, which took about twenty years. The artist devoted half of his works to the Czech Republic, and the rest to other Slavic cultures and significant events in their history. Alphonse Mucha completed the series of paintings “Slavic Epic” in 1928 and presented it to Prague. In 1937, the paintings were hidden from the Nazis, and for a long time no one had a clue where they are. Canvases were discovered only after 25 years. Since 1963 they are exhibited in the castle Moravian Krumlov.

In March 1939, the Nazis captured Prague. Alphonse Mucha, who was widely known for his patriotism and even developed, as they would say now, the "corporate identity" of independent Czechoslovakia, was included in the list of enemies of the Third Reich. The 78-year-old artist was arrested several times and dragged to interrogations. All this finally undermined the already poor health of the old man. During one of the interrogations, Mucha caught a cold and became ill with pneumonia. Nevertheless, happiness smiled at the artist for the last time: he died not in a cold cell, but in his own bed next to his beloved Marushka.

Author: Evgenia Sidelnikova

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