Alphonse Mucha, by Sarah Mucha – I’ve been a fan of this artist for some time, but wasn’t that familiar with his life or the variety of media in which he worked. This book, written by the artist’s granddaughter-in-law, gives a good overview of both. Starting with his famous decorative panels and concluding with the Slav Epic, it details the scope of his work and the philosophy behind it.
My first real exposure to Mucha was when I picked up a poster depicting his work at the college bookstore, and found that it reminded me of the work of John R. Neill.
It was this picture, actually, simply titled The Blonde.
Not too surprising, since Mucha was more or less the father of Art Nouveau, and Neill was influenced by this style particularly in his drawings of girls. His Ozma, who wore poppies in her hair (a detail never mentioned by L. Frank Baum), was a typical Art Nouveau girl.
Mucha’s most famous pictures are his lithographs of women, often used for advertising purposes, which art history professor Petr Wittlich described as “the symbolic personification of the ‘World Soul’, oscillating between the world of ideal values and the sensual reality of our life.” Even when his women are naked, there’s a certain innocence to them.
Music, from the 1898 series The Arts.
Ronald F. Lipp writes of the Mucha Woman, “She beckons to us hypnotically, some amalgam of Moravian peasant maiden, Venusian goddess and blessed Madonna.” There’s generally a fairy tale component to them as well, which strengthens the connection between Mucha and children’s book illustration.
Also, Mucha was Czech, and quite patriotically so, and as part Czech myself I feel I should support him in that respect. Not that I pay attention to my Czech heritage in any other respect, but it’s still cool. I have somewhat of the same feeling about Kafka.
Mucha’s breakthrough work, Gismonda, depicted actress Sarah Bernhardt.