Alphonse Mucha

    Alphonse Mucha.

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    "Mucha is to Art Nouveau what Nedved is to Czech football." - Paul Page

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

    20.01.15: biography

    Fame is a fickle business. Alphonse Mucha was during his life-time the most famous artist of the Art Nouveau period; indeed, his imagery was so inextricably entwined with Art Nouveau that the entire movement was referred to by Goncourt as the'Mucha Style'. Famous throughout Europe and the Americas, he inspired other artists and designers who copied him and plagiarised him so that for years the image of the Muchaesque beauty surrounded by her characteristic symbols was enshrined in advertising, magazine covers and illustrations, book jackets, posters, paintings and numerous artifacts.


    Yet at the height of his fame, Mucha left Paris, which he associated with commercial success, to seek a different kind of recognition as a 'serious' painter in the United States and in his native Czechoslovakia, thereby contributing to the ending of the creative phase of Art Nouveau. Within a few years he was totally forgotten. At least one major Paris graphics gallery bought up a vast quantity of his decorative panels, folded them in half, cut a window opening on one side, and used them as mounts or matts in which to display better known works. After all, the panels were cheaper than plain white card.

    When the revival of interest in Art Nouveau began in the post-war years, none of the writers on the subject even mentioned Mucha.

    Mucha's name gradually emerged from obscurity as first Art Nouveau dealers and then wholesalers of reproduction posters brought his images forward. His son Jiri Mucha - a distinguished novelist, war correspondent, translator and theatrical producer - organised exhibitions all over the world, patiently prodding and encouraging galleries and insitutions. He wrote a biography of his father, which was published in Czech and then in English, and wrote or participated in a stream of new books and articles about Mucha pere, who is probaly even more famous now than he was in his lifetime. His works are now displayed all over the world.


    Alphonse Maria Mucha was born in Ivancice in South Moravia in 1860, the son of a local court usher and his second wife, a former governess. His mother wanted him to join the priesthood; his father hoped he would find some form of remunerative employment. He spent three years as a choir boy in Brno (where he met Leos Janacek) and when his voice broke, his father found him a job as a clerk.

    The young Mucha was a poor clerk, but he devoted his spare time to drawing and to designing stage sets for local amateur theatre productions in which he also participated as an actor and producer.

    Encouraged by his drawing teacher in Brno, Mucha applied to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, but was turned down. He eventually came across a newspaper advertisement for a young scene painter with the Viennese firm of Kautsky-Brioschi-Burghardt, a large supplier of stage equipment and painters of theatrical scenery, backcloths and curtains. Mucha sent them a group of drawings, was accepted, and left for Vienna in 1879.

    mucha printemps

    Vienna suited him well enough. Its most famous artist, Hans Makart, deeply impressed him. Makart celebrated Vienna in his paintings, setting the real people he saw around him within reconstructed historical events. For the Emperor Franz Joseph's jubilee celebrations, he brought his paintings to life, organising an elaborate pageant with historical events set on floats and a procession of men and women representing historical and symbolic characters in appropriate colourful costumes. Mucha absorbed Makart's innovation - the central positioning of recognisable, preferably beautiful women in historical reconstructions - and he also determined to become a painter of history.

    In December 1881 Vienna's great Ring Theatre burned down, and some five hundred people died in the conflagration. As the Ring Theatre had been one of his employer's main clients, the most recently hired staff, including Mucha, were dismissed. However, Mucha was certain fate had something good in store for him, so he stayed in Vienna until most of his money was used up, then arbitrarily chose a railway station and a destination on the basis of the little money he had left. Thus he found himself in Mikulov. Mikulov had a hotel, into which he moved, with a restaurant in which he could order meals. The town also had a bookseller, to whom he sold a drawing and through whom he built up a steady business drawing portraits of the pretty townswomen. He decorated the local theatre, painted its scenery, acted, played the violin and guitar, and was soon invited to every local dance. He also designed tombstone inscriptions and ornaments.

    One of Mucha's new friends in Mikulov was the manager of a nearby large estate owned by the wealthy Count Khuen. Mucha designed an address for the staff to present to the Count's father-in- law on his sixtieth birthday, as a result of which the Count invited Mucha to paint a series of frescoes for the dining room of Emmahof, a castle he had just had built in the forest near Hrusovany. Mucha quickly found out how to paint frescoes and moved into the castle. Though he experienced some difficulty in the execution, he had no shortage of ideas. He also found that living in luxury was not overrated and made full use of the Count's extensive library, studying art and many other subjects.

    princess hyacinth

    After finishing the murals, Mucha was ready to go back to Vienna, but Count Khuen sent him instead to Gandegg, the family castle in the Tyrol. He was welcomed there by Count Khuen's brother, Count Egon, who was an amateur painter, and the two men spent many hours painting. Through an acquaintance of the Count's, Mucha met a painter who advised him to go to the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. In 1885 he sat the entrance examination and was admitted as a third-year student.

    Munich was an exciting city for him, and although the Academy utterly ignored all innovation, his teachers were good and the curriculum, atmosphere and traditions reinforced his attachment to history painting. After completing his course, Mucha returned to Emmahof, where he painted frescoes for the billiard room. Count Khuen was prepared to finance further studies, and offered him a choice of Paris or Rome. He chose Paris, and arrived there in 1887.


    Mucha spoke not a word of French when he arrived. He enrolled at the Academic Julien, where he studied with Jules Lefebvre and Jean-Paul Laurens, devoting long hours to painting, then more hours to learning French. His fellow students included Maurice Denis, Bonnard and Serusier, but he preferred the company of other young Czechs, ate in Czech restaurants, and longed for his homeland. Count Khuen sent him 200 francs a month to pay for board and lodgings and tuition fees, but expected regular progress reports and drawings in return.

    In the summer, Mucha met the Count in Munich and then spent the holidays at Emmahof, where he painted more frescoes on the castle walls. On his return to Paris, he found a room on the left bank and enrolled at the Academic Colarossi. He was hard at work there when, in 1889, he was advised that Count Khuen had decided to discontinue his financial asistance. It is not known why the Count made this decision - perhaps he felt that Mucha did not write often enough and was therefore ungrateful, or perhaps he felt that it was time that Mucha earned his own living. In any case, the artist was penniless.

    pagenat on the vltava

    Mucha was saved from starvation by an order for some illustrations for a short story magazine, Le Petit Parisien Illustre, and, a little later, by a commission to illustrate an epic poem for a Prague publisher.

    Slewinsky, a Polish friend from the Academic Colarossi, dragged him away from his hovel and found him a room above Madame Charlotte's Crernerie in the rue de la Grande Chaumiere, opposite the Academic. Madame Charlotte was the widow of an army officer killed in 1870 when Paris was besieged by the Prussians, and she ran a restaurant for students, whom she treated as members of her own family. Mucha was thus in contact with students of every nationality and he heard all the gossip, particularly about available work. He produced weekly covers for another magazine, La Vie Populaire, and illustrated a book of fairy tales for Xavier Marmier, who submitted a number of the designs to the Salon where they received an Honourable Mention.

    Of all the friends Mucha made at the Cremerie, perhaps the least likely was Gauguin. Gauguin arrived there in 1891, followed shortly by Willibrord Verkade, a young Dutchman who became one of his Nabis disciples before converting to Catholicism and joining a group of Benedictine painter monks at the Abbey of Beuron, from where he was sent to Prague to decorate a church. Gauguin meanwhile organised a sale of his own work to finance his longed-for trip to the Pacific. When he returned from Tahiti two years later, he had no money, but Madame Charlotte both lent him some and purchased a number of his paintings, while Mucha offered him the use of his studio and the two men worked together, each in his corner. As Mucha prospered, he moved to a large studio across the road and Gauguin followed. Mucha bought himself a harmonium, which he soon learned to play. He also took an amusing photograph of Gauguin seated at the harmonium wearing a shirt and jacket but neither trousers nor shoes nor socks.

    Photography soon became much more than a hobby for Mucha. Models cost money, so whenever he employed one, he would photograph her in as many varied positions as he needed, and he supplemented his photographic archives with snapshots of friends posing heroically, tragically, or grandiosely. His work at this time included drawing for the Figaro Illusive, the Revue Mame and L'Illustration, designing a calendar for the inks and paints manufacturer Lorilleux, and designing lottery tickets.

    Le Costume au Theatre, a magazine which regularly featured drawings of the costumes and stage sets of contemporary productions, both theatrical and operatic. Mucha received free tickets to the various productions, which he later drew for the magazine. In this way, he met Theophile Alexandre Steinlen, another contributor. The publisher, Armand Colin, also commissioned him to produce drawings for a serialised history of Germany by Charles Seignobos, with other drawings by Georges Rochegrosse. Scenes et Episodes de I'histoire d'Allemagne appeared first in forty-one parts, then as a single work in 1898. It contained thirty-three full- page wood engravings by G. Lemoine after Mucha's drawings, although Mucha also executed a vast number of preliminary drawings, finished drawings and paintings. Four of the drawings were exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Francais in 1894 and twenty-seven were shown at the Galerie de la Bodiniere in 1897.

    mucha the seasons

    Mucha's Art Nouveau period dates from the end of 1894. The legend, created by Mucha himself and elaborated over the years, is set in the offices of Lemercier, a well-known printer. Mucha was there alone over Christmas Day and St. Stephen's Day, proofing some lithographs for his friend Kadar. Just as he was completing the work, Monsieur de Brunoff, Lemercier's manager, rushed in and informed him that Sarah Bernhardt had just telephoned to say she needed a poster to be ready by New Year's Day. It was for Sardou's play Gismonda; attendances had been flagging and a boost was needed to revive it in the New Year. As it was a holiday period, all Lemercier's regular poster artists - including Georges de Feure and Fernand Gottlob - were away.

    Could Mucha do it? Mucha was willing to try.

    He hired a tail-coat, borrowed an ill-fitting top hat, and arrived at the theatre with pad and pencil. He found Sarah sublime and soon worked up a poster design. De Brunoff went off on holiday, leaving Mucha to execute the work on two large lithographic stones. On the manager's return on December 30th the poster was printed and hanging up to dry. De Brunoff was horrified. He was certain Sarah would reject the poster and felt his own situation at risk, but there was no time left to change it. The poster was printed and a copy sent directly to the Theatre de la Renaissance. Mucha, thoroughly unnerved by De Brunoff, sank into depression in the Lemercier studio until roused by a telephone call summoning him to the theatre. Feeling like a condemned man on his way to the scaffold, Mucha went, only to find Sarah entranced by her image in the poster. She loved the work, welcomed Mucha, and soon tied him into a contract with her to design not only posters, theatre cards and programmes, but also costumes and stage sets - a collaboration that often extended to the whole production.

    crescent lady

    The truth may be a little less romantic. Mucha had certainly seen Sarah on stage many times when he was working for Le Costume au Theatre and must have made many sketches other over the years. As early as 1890 he had executed a lithograph ot her as Cleopatre in Sardou's play of the same name. A special number of a magazine called Le Gaulois, published in November 1894, was devoted to Gismonda. Although no copy of this magazine has yet been found, there exists a sketch book by Mucha showing the cover and several illustrations for the issue, and it would be reasonable to assume that Mucha had already steeped himself in the play. Gaston Cerfberr, in an article entitled Un maitre de l'affiche in the March 1st 1897 issue of Le Magazin Pittoresque, writes that Sarah had asked for poster sketches for Gismonda from several artists, and had preferred Mucha's. At any rate, Sarah recognised a gold mine when she saw one.

    Mucha's poster for Gismonda was unveiled to the public on January 1st, 1895. In contrast to Cheret's loud, bright colours, Mucha's were muted and translucent. The effect was electric - the elongated, slender form of Sarah in her long dress standing frozen in a hieratic pose, the decoration not blobs of colour but intricate linear patterns. Whereas the Cheret poster was meant to catch the attention of the passer-by, leaving an impression even on one racing past, Mucha's poster, placed only just above ground level, forced the passer-by to stop, come close and look for a long time. Crowds gathered around each poster, and collectors bribed the poster men to keep one for them, or attempted to cut them off the hoardings.

    In July Sarah ordered a further 4,000 copies of the poster, asking Lemercier to deliver them in small batches which she then sold at some considerable profit to herself. Unfortunately, the firm only delivered 3,450 copies, having undoubtedly sold the balance itself. This led to a court case in 1897 when Sarah asked for 5,000 francs in damages. Since she refused to disclose to the court the price for which she sold the posters, her loss could not be assessed and she was awarded only 500 francs. After this she refused to allow Lemercier to print any more posters, and to maintain the limited edition, she had the lithographic stones destroyed. As a result of the dispute Sarah transferred all her custom from Lemercier to Champenois in 1896, and Mucha naturally followed her.

    savonnerie de bagnolet

    Nothing Mucha had done before the poster for Gismonda gave any indication that he had even noticed the ferment in art that surrounded him. His work was academic in the best sense of the term - composed, true to life and perspective, meticulous in its historical research. But that, of course, was what was required of him in the work he produced. Faced with designing an original poster, however, he showed that he had absorbed and retained the lessons of his predecessors, his contemporaries, and the art of other countries and other eras, and was capable of transforming all these passing influences into his own vocabulary of image and layout.

    The basic idea for the layout of the Gismonda poster came from Eugene Grasset's poster for Sarah as Jeanne d'Arc, executed earlier that year. Grasset had made two versions of it - one with Sarah's head lowered, the other more defiant - but she had liked neither very much. Mucha took over the idea of the full standing figure, clad her appropriately, then emphasised her slender, elongated form by using a tall narrow poster.

    femme aux coquelicots t

    In Grasset's poster Sarah holds her banner in her right hand; in Mucha's she holds a palm leaf (for Palm Sunday). In both posters her left hand is held to her breast. Grasset had Sarah's left foot in its medieval pointed boot intrude beyond the drawn ground into the bottom reserve in which is lettered 'Sarah Bernhardt'. Mucha had Sarah's long train curl across the drawn ground and intrude into the bottom reserve in which is lettered 'Theatre de la Renaissance'. The title is spread across the top of the poster in both cases, but where Grasset placed the figure of Sarah against stylised Japanese clouds framed by a sea of pikes and a volley of arrows, Mucha took Sarah away from realistic props, put her name in a semi- circular arch surmounting her head like a golden halo, and turned the whole image into a contemporary icon. Byzantine gold imagery had been used in other posters for Sarah - notably by Manuel Orazi and Auguste Gorguet - but Mucha's Byzantinism was not mere decoration, but rather an intricately conceived conceit. Lit by church candles and smelling of incense, it subtly transformed Sarah into the Holy Virgin, a role she clearly relished. Sarah's short, frizzy hair had defeated Grasset, who had tried in his two versions both a short and long haircut for her. Mucha surrounded her head with flowers like a celestial crown, then transformed her hair into an abstract design whose shape was delineated by a thick drawn outline.

    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 Alfreedd 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.

    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.

    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.


    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.


    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.

    20.01.13: books & prints

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