Alphonse Mucha Chandon Cremant Imperial, 1899. Lithograph Poster.
Text below © Paul Page.

20.01.13: texts

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Mucha vintage exhibtion posters @ ebay.com (direct link) - just checked & a bigger selection than i've seen anywhere else

    "Of all the friends Mucha made perhaps the least likely was Gauguin." - Paul Page

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Just got my copy of Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Graphic Works and it took my breath away. More details can be found at amazon.com

20.01.05: biography part iv

Mucha had devised the perfect image for a 'sacred monster', a secular icon. He was not to depart from this formula in the major posters he executed for Sarah over the next few years. La Dame aux Cornelias, a play by Alexandre Dumas fils, followed in 1896. This similarly tall and narrow poster shows Sarah in profile, her hair in an outlined chignon. Her left hand holds a swirling stole to her bosom, her right hand rests on a parapet, and a disembodied hand appears holding a flowering rose-branch. Once again, her train curls over the drawn ground and intrudes into the bottom lettered reserve. The religious imagery is evoked by a background of what appear from a distance to be snowflakes, but on closer inspection turn out to be silver stars. Charles Saunier admired the poster in an article in which he wrote:

    'To a charivari of colours Mucha opposes a poster as clean and white as a lily.'

Sarah is seen full face for the first time in the second poster of 1896 - for Lorenzaccio by Alfreddd de Musset - in which she is depicted as musing, her right hand to her mouth in a characteristic Bernhardtian gesture. The play's symbolism is made plain - the evil despot is shown as a dragon about to devour the coat-of-arms of Florence while a narrow reserve below the main figure illustrates the central character's statement: 'My whole life hangs on the tip of my dagger'. Her cloak overhangs the drawn ground to invade both the drawn reserve and the lettered reserve below it, and the framing archway echoes the halo of Gismonda. La Samaritaine of 1897 - a poster for a verse play by Edmond Rostand, a 'gospel in three scenes' with music by Gabriel Pierne - shows Sarah full face, this time holding a jar. Her name in pseudo-Hebraic letters is situated in a complete halo out of which stars burst to frame and illuminate her. Since her dress is only ankle length, it is her naked foot which points into the lower reserve.

mucha lefevre utile - sarah bernhardt

In 1898 Mucha drew the poster for Medee, a play by Catulle Mendes. The terrifying figure of Medea is shown after she has killed Jason's children, who lie at her feet surrounded by her train - an echo of her words to Jason: 'Do not seek your children any further! Here they are'. The circular halo behind her is now the sun's disc, and her father, Helios the sun, sweeps her away in his chariot in the play's climax. Her right hand still holds the blood-encrusted dagger, her left hand has entwined around it a snake bracelet, a design Mucha was to rework and complete for Fouquet in 1899.

Also in 1899 Mucha executed the last of the great theatre posters for Sarah, for a production of Hamlet in a translation by Eugene Morand and Marcel Schwob. Sarah as Hamlet is in profile, with a nocturnal scene behind her framed by a semi-circle. Her foot crosses the drawn ground and just touches the scene below which shows the death of Ophelia. Sombre and magnificent, the poster is a fitting close to the group of Sarah posters. These appeared in a variety of guises, served for various revivals and American tours, sometimes with changes of text or colours, and were often reproduced in the theatre programme.

mucha
biscuits lefevre utile

Mucha produced two more theatre posters for Sarah which are not part of the series already mentioned - the first for Ka Tosca in 1899, based directly on a photograph of Sarah in the part, and the second for Edmond Rostand's play L'Aiglon in 1900, a hurried poster showing a truncated version of Mucha's original design which was perhaps executed by the printers in his absence. His involvement in the design of costumes and sets as well as in other aspects of the production of some of Sarah's plays did not leave him much time to design posters. He did however create a poster for Sarah's theatre while she was on tour in the United States in 1895 - for Amants, a comedy by Maurice Donnay. Mucha deliberately designed this poster to be as unlike his posters for Sarah as possible - it is a horizontal poster, and whereas Sarah's posters show her alone, this one shows all the characters of the play, including its two stars Lucien Guitry and Jeanne Granier.

Mucha's greatest involvement with Sarah in a play was in Edmond Rostand's La Princesse Lointaine, which he co-produced with Sarah, as well as designing sets, costumes and an elaborate programme. He sketched an idea for a poster, but did not have time to produce it before the play's opening in April 1895. He did, however, produce a poster a year later which showed Sarah wearing the lilies in her hair which he had designed for her role as Melissande in Rostand's play. Unlike Mucha's other posters for her, this one shows her head and shoulders only. The halo around her head carries her name, encloses a pattern of concentric circles, and is placed on a background of golden stars.

The poster was first used for the Journee Sarah Bernhardt, a commemoration arranged by her admirers on December 9th 1896. This included a lunch, followed by a hymn to her composed by Gabriel Pierne with words by Armand Silvestre, performed by the Colonne Orchestra and Chorus, followed by extracts from her more successful plays. There were three menus for the banquet, which were illustrated by Cheret, Louise Abbema and Mucha, and a souvenir book, illustrated by Louise Abbema, Benjamin Constant, Carolus Duran, Granie, Antonio de la Gandara, Georges Rochegrosse and Mucha. Roty designed a medal. The poster was also used with a different text to announce an article on Sarah in the magazine La Plume on December 15th, although the article itself did not appear until the January 1st 1897 issue. A version of the poster without text at the bottom was published for collectors by La Plume's Edition d'Art on slightly better paper with handcolouring by Mucha.

mucha
chocolat ideal


The publisher Piazza commissioned Mucha to illustrate La Princesse Lointaine, which he wanted to turn into a book. However, Piazza refused the author's demand for 10,000 francs for the rights, and turned up a few days later with Robert de Flers, a young writer who produced a virtually identical tale under the title of Ilsee, Princesse de Tripoli. As early as 1896, La Plume's Edition d'Art was offering the book on subscription, and Mucha had an immense amount of "work to do for it. He moved to a larger studio at 6 rue du Val de Grace, where he was able to work directly onto the lithographic stones. He would work on several illustrations simultaneously, with no time to use models. Repetitive decorative motifs were entrusted to craftsmen who followed his original designs, and within three months he had completed 134 coloured lithographs in addition to designing the book and its cover.

La Plume was a slender magazine which championed Symbolist art and writings. It also ran an art gallery, the Salon des Cent, and published and sold original posters and decorative panels by many artists in and on the fringe of the Art Nouveau style. In 1895 Leon Deshairs, the magazine's editor, called on Mucha, who offered to design a poster for the Salon des Cent. The resulting work depicted a thoughtful young woman holding a drawing of a heart crowned by Folly with thistles, by Genius with thorns, and by Love with flowers.

In 1897 Mucha himself had two major exhibitions - the first in February at the Galerie de la Bodiniere and the second in May at the Salon de Cent. The latter contained 448 "works, and the invitation to the private viewing reproduced the poster he had designed two years earlier. So many legends about Mucha were floating around Paris at the time - some asserting he was Hungarian or even Spanish and one particularly charming one claiming that Sarah Bernhardt had stolen him away from a gypsy camp - that he decided to settle the matter once and for all by putting a Moravian cap on the girl in his poster. He may have been surprised that this did not stop the speculation. La Plume celebrated the exhibition with a special number, which appeared in five parts over consecutive issues and was then re-issued in a single volume. The cover design by Mucha was used by the magazine for a long time afterwards. The special issue included an attempt to catalogue his many works and illustrations, and most of the articles written about him to date. He had now become extremely famous, and his social life exceedingly active, but this did not slow down his productivity.

mucha
noel


He produced several sets of decorative panels in lithography including two sets of the Four Seasons, the Four Arts, the Four Times of Day, and his most splendid set, the Four Precious Stones. He produced posters for liqueurs such as Benedictine and La Trappistine, for Job cigarette papers, for Bieres de la Meuse, for Nestle's, for a perfume spray, the Monaco-Monte Carlo railway, Cycles Perfecta, the tonic Vin des Incas, Moot & Chandon champagne, and Lefevre-Utile biscuits. His fame was such that Cheret was able to satirise him in Les Maitres de I'Affiche in a lithograph which showed a little girl on her knees by a poster of Bieres de la Mouse, mistaking Mucha's pretty model for the Virgin Mary.

Mucha also designed a vast number of magazine covers, calendars and book covers, illustrated Anatole France's Clio and produced two pattern books - Documents decoratifs and Figures decoratives - in addition to working on jewellery, ceramics, a complete jewellery shop and several pieces of sculpture. In his spare time he continued to teach, either by himself in his own studio or in a room hired at the Academic Colarossi, or for a while in collaboration with Whistler.

As he felt freer in his approach to decoration, Mucha experimented increasingly with the serpentine possibilities of hair, often giving his maidens the most elaborately involved and entwined tendrils of hair which descended, curled up and almost dominated the image. Much admired by some, this was derided by other critics as a 'macaroni' or 'noodle' style. He interspersed his designs with exquisitely detailed flowers and a whole armoury of symbols culled from Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, kabalistic signs, arabesque and Islamic patterns, Celtic entrelacs, calligraphic doodling and even the patterns of medieval roof tiles. His own fascination with the occult, theosophy, and a general curiosity about the world expanded his horizons.

Yet his enjoyment of fame did not truly satisfy him. He felt he was wasting his time and energy in frivolous pursuits, and the money he made was lent, given away, or frittered as fast as it was earned. The Exposition Universelle, the great exhibition organised in Paris to welcome the new century, consecrated his fame. He designed a poster for the Austrian pavilion, decorated the pavilion of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Austro-Hungary's most recently annexed provinces), selected an exhibition of Austrian artifacts, and had another major retrospective exhibition of his own work. There was even talk of his designing a complete exhibition hall, for which he executed a number of drawings, and the suggestion was made that the Eiffel Tower should be stripped down to its base and first floor and Mucha's pavilion erected over it.

Although this project was never executed, the huge paintings extolling the southern Slavs which he produced for the Bosnia-Herzegovina pavilion finally decided him to give up Parisian life and go on a working tour of the United States, where he hoped to earn enough money to be able to return to his native land and devote the rest of his life to a major set of gigantic paintings on tne subject of the Slav Epic - the glorious and disastrous events that made up the history of his people.

mucha
flower


It did not quite work out the way he had expected. He had little patience or experience as a fashionable portrait painter, and as his fame had preceded him to the States, his social life remained exceedingly active. He executed posters for the composer Rudolf Frimi and the cellist Zdenka Cerna, as well as a poster for the actress Leslie Carter which harked back to the style of the Sarah Bernhardt posters. Mucha also designed sets and costumes for Leslie Carter, but as her production of Kassa was a flop she lost her money and never paid him for the work he did. His most important commission was the decoration of the entire German Theatre in New York, which included three vast painted panels. He also designed the sets and costumes for two productions there - Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Henry VI - but within a year of its completion, the German theatre closed down, unable to make ends meet. He also executed several minor commissions in the United States, including a design for the packaging of a soap called Mucha.

In 1910 Mucha persuaded a wealthy American, Charles R. Crane, to finance the Slav Epic. He then returned to his native Bohemia and spent most of the rest of his life carrying out his dream. He did not altogether abandon Art Nouveau ornamentation: following the success of his illustrations for the Lord's Prayer (Le Pater), he drew a cycle of images to illustrate The Beatitudes for an American magazine, and he also worked on a number of posters which included one of his most charming - Princess Hyacinta, for a musical pantomine - and a curious design for the Brooklyn Museum exhibition of eleven of the paintings from the Slav Epic in 1921. Mucha died in Prague in 1939...previous page.

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Recommended Reading: Alphonse Mucha Masterworks

20.01.13: books & prints

Direct page links to Mucha books available at amazon.co.uk & amazon.com .

Mucha vintage exhibtion posters @ ebay.com (direct link) - just checked & a bigger selection than i've seen anywhere else

Biography | Gallery | Mucha Canvas Prints | Mucha Rarities | Blank Books Unlined
Bookmarks | Books | Greeting Cards | Keyrings | Magneto Notes Lined | Mousepads
Notepads | Postcards | Piezzo Lighters | Poster Books | Posters | Umbrellas
Wooden Pencils | Advertise | Mucha Books: Amazon.co.uk | Mucha Books: Amazon.com
Mucha vintage exhibtion posters @ ebay.com (direct link) - just checked & a bigger selection than i've seen anywhere else

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