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Alphonse Mucha

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Born in 1860 in a small Czech town, Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) was an artist on the forefront of Art Nouveau, the modernist movement that swept Paris in the 1910s, marking a return to the simplicity of natural forms, and changing the world of art and design forever. In fact, Art Nouveau was known to insiders as the “Mucha style” for the legions of imitators who adapted the master’s celebrated tableaux. Today, his paintings have inspired album covers, comic books, and everything in between. Patrick Bade and Victoria Charles offer readers an inspiring survey of Mucha’s career, illustrated with over one hundred of lustrous images, from early Parisian advertisements and posters for Sandra Bernhardt, to the famous historical murals painted just before his death, at the age of 78, in 1939.

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Alphonse

MUCHA

Author(s):
Patrick Bade and Victoria Charles
Layout:
Baseline Co. Ltd
61A-63A Vo Van Tan Street
4th Floor
District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
© Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA
© Parkstone Press International, New York, USA
Image-Bar www.image-bar.com
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of
the copyright holder, throughout the world. Unless otherwise specified, copyright on the
works reproduced lies with the respective photographers, artists, heirs or estates.
Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish copyright
ownership. Where this is the case, we would appreciate notification.
ISBN: 978-1-78310-076-7

Patrick Bade and Victoria Charles

Alphonse
Mucha

Contents
Art Nouveau

7

The Origins of Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau at the 1900 Universal
Exposition in Paris

Mucha

77

Mucha and Art Nouveau
Conclusion

Works

145

Graphic Works

181

Biography

192

Bibliography

194

Index

196

ART NOUVEAU

8

The Origins of Art Nouveau
„One can argue the merits and the future of the new decorative art movement, but there
is no denying it currently reigns triumphant over all Europe and in every English-speaking
country outside Europe; all it needs now is management, and this is up to men of taste.‰
(Jean Lahor, Paris 1901)
Art Nouveau sprang from a major movement in the decorative arts that first appeared
in Western Europe in 1892, but its birth was not quite as spontaneous as is commonly
believed. Decorative ornament and furniture underwent many changes between the
waning of the Empire style around 1815 and the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris
celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution. For example, there were distinct
revivals of Restoration, Louis-Philippe, and Napoleon III furnishings still on display at
the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris. Tradition (or rather imitation) played too large
a role in the creation of these different period styles for a single trend to emerge and
assu; me a unique mantle. Nevertheless, there were some artists during this period that
sought to distinguish themselves from their predecessors by expressing their own
decorative ideal.
What then did the new decorative art movement stand for in 1900? In France, as
elsewhere, it meant that people were tired of the usual repetitive forms and methods, the
same old decorative clichés and banalities, the eternal imitation of furniture from the
reigns of monarchs named Louis (Louis XIII to XVI), and furniture from the Renaissance and
Gothic periods. It meant designers finally asserted the art of their own time as their own.
Up until 1789 (the end of the Ancien Régime), style had advanced by reign; this era
wanted its own style. And (at least outside of France) there was a yearning for something
more: to no longer be slaves to foreign fashion, taste, and art. It was an urge inherent in
the eraÊs awakening nationalism, as each country tried to assert independence in
literature and in art.
In short, there was a push everywhere towards a new art that was neither a servile copy
of the past nor an imitation of foreign taste.
There was also a real need to recreate decorative art, simply because there had
been none since the turn of the century. In each preceding era, decorative art had
not merely existed; it had flourished gloriously. In the past, everything from peopleÊs
clothing and weapons, right down to the slightest domestic object – from andirons,

Mucha in his studio,
rue du Val-de-Grâce,
Paris, c. 1898. (p. 6)
Biscuits Champagne Lefèvre-Utile,
1896.
Colour lithograph, 52.1 x 35.2 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Gismonda, 1894.
Colour lithograph, 216 x 74.2 cm.
Mucha Museum,Prague. (p. 10)
Cassan Fils (print shop), 1895.
Colour lithograph, 174.7 x 68.4 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague. (p. 10)
The Seasons: Summer, 1900.
Colour lithograph, 73 x 32 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 11)
La Dame aux camélias, 1896.
Colour lithograph, 207.3 x 72.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p.11)

9

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11

bellows, and chimney backs, to a drinking cup – were duly decorated: each object
had its own ornamentation and finishing touches, its own elegance and beauty. But
the 19th century had concerned itself with little other than function; ornament,
finishing touches, elegance, and beauty were superfluous. At once both grand and
miserable, the 19th century was as „deeply divided‰ as PascalÊs human soul. The
century that ended so lamentably in brutal disdain for justice among peoples had
opened in complete indifference to decorative beauty and elegance, maintaining for
the greater part of one hundred years a singular paralysis when it came to aesthetic
feeling and taste.
The return of once-abolished aesthetic feeling and taste also helped bring about Art
Nouveau. France had come to see through the absurdity of the situation and was
demanding imagination from its stucco and fine plaster artists, its decorators, furniture
makers, and even architects, asking all these artists to show some creativity and fantasy,
a little novelty and authenticity. And so there arose new decoration in response to the new
needs of new generations.
The definitive trends capable of producing a new art would not materialise until the 1889
Universal Exposition. There the English asserted their own taste in furniture; American
silversmiths Graham and Augustus Tiffany applied new ornament to items produced by
their workshops; and Louis Comfort Tiffany revolutionised the art of stained glass with his
glassmaking. An elite corps of French artists and manufacturers exhibited works that
likewise showed noticeable progress: Emile Gallé sent furniture of his own design and
decoration, as well as coloured glass vases in which he obtained brilliant effects through
firing; Clément Massier, Albert Dammouse, and Auguste Delaherche exhibited flambé
stoneware in new forms and colours; and Henri Vever, Boucheron and Lucien Falize
exhibited silver and jewellery that showed new refinements. The trend in ornamentation
was so advanced that Falize even showed everyday silverware decorated with
embossed kitchen herbs.

Poster for Salon des Cent: 20th
Exposition (detail), 1896.
Colour lithograph, 63 x 43 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague. (p. 14)

The examples offered by the 1889 Universal Exposition quickly bore fruit; everything was
culminating into a decorative revolution. Free from the prejudice of high art, artists sought
new forms of expression. In 1891 the French Societé Nationale des Beaux-Arts
established a decorative arts division which, although negligible in its first year, was
significant by the Salon of 1892, when works in pewter by Jules Desbois, Alexandre
Charpentier, and Jean Baffier were exhibited for the first time. And the Société des Artistes
Français, initially resistant to decorative art, was forced to allow the inclusion of a special
section devoted to decorative art objects in the Salon of 1895.

Poster for «The Cigarette Poster Job»,
1896.
Colour lithograph, 66.7 x 46.4 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 15)

It was on 22nd December that same year that Siegfried Bing, returning from an assignment
in the United States, opened a shop named Art Nouveau in his townhouse on Rue
Chauchat, which Louis Bonnier had adapted to contemporary taste. The rise of Art

L’Estampe Moderne: Salomé (detail),
1897.
Colour lithograph, 40.6 x 30.7 cm.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

12

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15

16

Nouveau was no less remarkable abroad. In England, Liberty shops, Essex wallpaper,
and the workshops of Merton-Abbey and the Kelmscott-Press under the direction of
William Morris (for whom Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Crane provided designs) were
extremely popular. The trend even spread to LondonÊs Grand Bazaar (Maple & Co),
which offered Art Nouveau to its clientele as its own designs were going out of fashion.
In Brussels, the first exhibition of La Libre Esthétique opened in February 1894, reserving
a large space for decorative displays, and in December of the same year, the Maison
dÊart (established in the former townhouse of prominent Belgian lawyer Edmond Picard)
opened its doors to buyers in Brussels, gathering the whole of European decorative art
under one roof, as produced by celebrated artists and humble backwater workshops
alike. More or less simultaneous movements in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and
Denmark (including Royal Copenhagen porcelain) had won over the most discriminating
collectors well before 1895.
The expression „Art Nouveau‰ was henceforth part of the contemporary vocabulary, but
the two words failed to designate a uniform trend capable of giving birth to a specific
style. In reality, Art Nouveau varied by country and prevailing taste.
As we shall see, the revolution started in England where, at the outset, it truly was a
national movement. Indeed, nationalism and cosmopolitanism are two aspects of the
trend that we will discuss at length. Both are evident and in conflict in the arts, and
while both are justifiable trends, they both fail when they become too absolute and
exclusive. For example, what would have happened to Japanese art if it had not
remained national? And yet Gallé and Tiffany were equally correct to completely break
with tradition.

England: Cradle of Art Nouveau
In the architecture of its palaces, churches, and homes, England was overrun with the
neoclassical style based on Greek, Roman, and Italianate models. Some thought it
absurd to reproduce the Latin dome of RomeÊs Saint PeterÊs Cathedral in the outline of
Saint PaulÊs Cathedral, its Protestant counterpart in smoky, foggy London, along with
colonnades and pediments after Greece and Rome, and eventually England revolted,
happily returning to English art.
The revolution occurred thanks to its architects, first to A.W.N. Pugin, who
contributed to the design of the Houses of Parliament, and later to a whole group of
mostly Pre-Raphaelite artists who more or less favoured pre-pagan art of the 16th
century, before the classicising trend which was so hostile in its origins and its nature
to English tradition.

Sarah Bernhardt as Princess Lointaine:
Poster for the magazine La Plume,
1897.
Colour lithograph, 69 x 51 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Spring (from the Seasons series), 1896.
Colour lithograph, 103 x 54 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 18)
Summer (from the Seasons series),
1896.
Colour lithograph, 103 x 54 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 19)

17

18

19

The main proponents of the new decorative art movement were John Ruskin and William
Morris: Ruskin, for whom art and beauty were a passionate religion, and Morris, of great heart
and mind, by turns and simultaneously an admirable artist and poet, who made so many things
and so well, whose wallpapers and fabrics transformed wall decoration (leading him to
establish a production house) and who was also the head of his countryÊs Socialist Party.
With Ruskin and Morris among the originators, letÊs not forget the leaders of the new
movement: Philip Webb, architect, and Walter Crane, the periodÊs most creative and
appealing decorator, who was capable of exquisite imagination, fantasy, and elegance.
Around them and following them arose and was formed a whole generation of amazing
designers, illustrators, and decorators who, as in a pantheistic dream, married a wise
and charming fugue to a delicate melody of lines composed of decorative caprices of
flora and fauna, both animal and human.
In their art and technique of ornamentation, tracery, composition, and arabesques, as
well as through their cleverness and boundless ingenuity, the English Art Nouveau
designers recall the exuberant and marvellous master ornamentalists of the Renaissance.
No doubt they knew the Renaissance ornamentalists and closely studied them, as they
studied the contemporaneous School of Munich, in all the 15th and 16th century
engravings that we undervalue today, and in all the Munich schoolÊs niello, copper, and
woodcrafts. Although they often transposed the work of the past, the English Art Nouveau
designers never copied it with a timid and servile hand, but truly infused it with feeling
and the joy of new creation.
If you need convincing, look at old art magazines, such as Studio, Artist, or the Magazine
of Art, where you will find (in issues of Studio especially) designs for decorative
bookplates, bindings, and all manner of decoration. Note in the competitions sponsored
by Studio and South Kensington, what rare talent is revealed among so many artists. The
new wallpapers, fabrics, and prints that transformed our interior decoration may have
been created by Morris, Crane, and Charles Voysey as they dreamed primarily of nature,
but they were also thinking about the true principles of ornamentation as had been
traditionally taught and applied in the Orient and in Europe in the past by authentic
master decorators.

Study for “Zodiac”, 1896.
Pencil, ink, and watercolour,
65.7 x 48.2 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague.

20

Finally, it was English architects using native ingenuity and artistry who restored the
English art of old, revealing the simple charm of English architecture from the Queen Anne
period, and from the 16th to the 18th centuries in England. Quite appropriately they
introduced into this revival of their art – given the similarity between the climates,
countries, customs, and a certain common origin – the architectural and decorative forms
of Northern Europe, the colourful architecture of the region, where from Flanders to the
Baltic, grey stone was subordinate to brick and red tile, whose tonality so complements
the particular robust green of the trees, lawns, and meadows of northern prairies.

21

22

Now, the majority of these architects saw no shame in being both architects and
decorators, in fact achieving perfect harmony between the exterior and the interior
decoration of a house by any other means was unfathomable. Inside, they sought
harmony as well by composing with furnishings and tapestries to create an ensemble of
new co-ordinated forms and colours that were soft, subdued, and calm.
Among the most highly respected were Norman Shaw, Thomas Edward Collcut, and the
firm of Ernest George and Harold Ainsworth Peto. These architects restored what had
been missing: the subordination of all the decorative arts to architecture, a subordination
without which it would be impossible to create any style.
We certainly owe them such novelties as pastel decor (as in the 18 th century domestic
interior) and the return of architectural ceramics (likely Oriental in origin), which they
had studied and with which they had much greater skill and mastery than anyone
else, given their constant contact with it. Thanks to these architects, bright colours like
peacock blue and sea green started to replace the dismal greys, browns, and other
sad colours that were still being used to make already ugly administrative buildings
even more hideous.
The reform of architecture and decorative art in England was therefore national at first.
This is not immediately obvious, however, in the work of Morris. But it was the
fundamental inclination of this artist and (whether consciously or not) of those in his orbit,
who like him passionately embraced English art and history as their own. It meant a return
to profiles, colours, and forms that were no longer Greek, Latin, or Italian: an art that was
English rather than classical.
Along with wallpaper and tapestries there was truly English furniture being designed that
was new and modern, often with superb lines, and English interiors often displayed
decorative ensembles with equally superb layouts, configurations, and colours.
Finally, throughout England, there was a desire to go back and redo everything from
overall structural ornamentation, the house, and furniture, right down to the humblest
domestic object. At one point even a hospital was decorated, an idea retained by the
English and later adopted in France.
From England, the movement spread to neighbouring Belgium.

Bières de la Meuse, 1897.
Colour lithograph,154.5 x 104.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.

Belgium: The Flowering of Art Nouveau

Autumn (from the Seasons series),
1896.
Colour lithograph, 103 x 54 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 24)

Belgium has long recognised the talent of its most famous architect, Victor Horta, along
with that of Paul Hankar and Henry Van de Velde, and the furniture maker and decorator

Winter (from the Seasons series), 1896.
Colour lithograph, 103 x 54 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 25)

23

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25

Gustave Serrurier-Bovy, one of the founders of the Liège School. Art Nouveau owes much
to these four artists, who were less conservative than their Flemish counterparts and mostly
unassociated with any tradition whatsoever. Horta, Van de Velde, and Hankar introduced
novelties to their art that were carefully studied and freely reproduced by foreign
architects, which brought great renown to the Belgians, even though the reproductions
were executed with slightly less confidence and a somewhat heavier hand.
These four had a great impact. Unfortunately, much of their impact was due to students
and copyists (as is often the case with masters) who were sometimes immoderate,
exhibiting a taste that comprised the masters.
This first became noticeable in relation to Horta and Hankar, even though Horta and
Hankar had initially employed their decorative vocabulary of flexible lines, undulating
like ribbons of algae or broken and coiling like the linear caprices of ancient
ornamentalists, with restraint, distributing it with precision and in moderation. Among
imitators, however, the lines grew wild, making the leap from ironwork and a few wall
surfaces to overrun the whole house and all its furniture.
The result was seen in torsions, in dances forming a delirium of curves; obsessive in
appearance and often torture to the eyes. The love of tradition was not as strong in Belgium
as it was in England and Belgian artists were preoccupied with discovering new and
comfortable interior designs. However successfully they met that challenge, however
pleasing the interior arrangements, however unexpected the curves seemed, the new decor
still had to be enlivened to satisfy the Flemish taste for abundance and elaborate decoration.
Serrurier-Bovy started by imitating English furniture, but eventually his own personality
emerged. Nevertheless, his creations, which for the most part excelled in novelty,
generally remained more restrained than the work of subsequent Belgian artists.
These Belgians were no less talented and imaginative but, in order to make their work
more impressive, they exaggerated linear decoration in the leitmotif of the line. Curved,
broken, or cursive, in the form of the whiplash, zigzag, or dash, the leitmotif of the line
would reach a level of contagion by the 1900 Universal Exposition.

Cover for Chansons d’aïeules, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 33 x 25 cm.
Collection of Victor Arwas, London.
Amants, 1895.
Colour lithograph, 106.5 x 137 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (pp. 28-29)

26

If we linger over the Belgian artists, it is because of the important role they played in the
renewal of the decorative arts, especially furniture. In this, Belgium, for better or worse,
deserves as much credit as England. From England and Belgium, the movement then
extended to the northern countries and to France, the United States , and Germany.
It is true that Germany needed these decorations to help make its Art Nouveau pillars and
its geometric furniture decorated with rigid mouldings borrowed from ancient Greek
monuments more palpable.

27

28

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30

Displaying the individual character that comes from local resources, customs, and taste,
Art Nouveau then also appeared in Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
At no point did England, the Netherlands, or Germany excel in statuary, which almost
completely disappeared from their versions of Art Nouveau. In order to entertain the eye
their artists instead gave precedence to shiny brass decoration cut in the form of
openwork arabesques and attached to woods that were either naturally rich in colour or
artificially highlighted.

France: A Passion for Art Nouveau
The passion for Art Nouveau was different in France. Instead of decorating with
schematically stylised flora and fauna, French artists concentrated on embellishing
new forms with sculpted ornamentation that retained the flowerÊs natural grace and
showed the figure to best advantage. This was already the focus of French exhibitors
in 1889.
But those artists were looking for novelty in absolute realism. Their successors
remembered that the refined art of the 18th century had derived its charm from the free
interpretation of nature, not its rigorous imitation.
The best among the artist craftsmen endeavoured to instil their designs with the
gentle harmony of line and form found in old French masterpieces and to decorate
them with all the novelty that the rich and vibrant flora and fauna could provide when
freely interpreted.
Although the best furniture makers, such as Charles Plumet, Tony Selmersheim, Louis
Sorel, and Eugène Gaillard, had little use for sculpture, it was sometimes a handy aid,
as seen in certain ensembles by Jules Desbois and Alexandre Charpentier. By
employing freely interpreted flora and the human figure, these two designers (who also
designed stunning contemporary jewellery) were able to produce dynamic new poetic
effects in which shadow and light played an important role.
Such was also the case with René Lalique, whose works evoked exquisite fantasies, or
the more robust jewels executed by Jean-Auguste Dampt, Henry Nocq, and FrançoisRupert Carabin, for example. French objects such as these were more sumptuous and
more powerfully affecting than the graphic rebuses seen in Brussels and Berlin.
Art Nouveau exploded in Paris in 1895, a year that opened and closed with important
milestones. In January, the poster designed by Alphonse Mucha for Sarah Bernhardt in
the role of Gismonda was plastered all over the capital.

The Months Postcard: December, 1899.
Colour lithograph, diameter 8.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.

31

This was the event that heralded the Art Nouveau poster style, which Eugène Grasset had
previously tackled, in particular in his posters for Encres Marquets (1892) and the Salon
des Cent (1894). Then December saw the opening of BingÊs Art Nouveau boutique,
which was entirely devoted to propagating the new genre.
It was also around this time that Hector Guimard built Castel Béranger (c. 1890). Two
years later, Baron Edouard Empain, the engineer and financer of the Paris Metro
construction project, selected Guimard to design the now famous Metro stations.
EmpainÊs choice, however, was strongly opposed at the time.
Some feared that GuimardÊs architecture represented too new an art form and that the
style, derided as style nouille (literally translated „noodle style‰), would ruin the look of
the French capital. An obstinate jury prevented Guimard from completing all the stations,
in particular the station near GarnierÊs Opéra: Art Nouveau appeared totally at odds
with GarnierÊs style, which was a perfect example of the historicism and eclecticism the
new movement was fighting against.
At the same time, French brasseries and restaurants offered themselves as privileged
sites for the development of the new trend. The Buffet de la Gare de Lyon opened in
1901. Rechristened Le Train Bleu in 1963, it counted Coco Chanel, Sarah
Bernhardt, and Colette among its many regulars.
With the addition of MaximÊs restaurant on the Rue Royale, dining establishments
henceforth became perfect models of Art Nouveau.
In 1901, the Alliance des Industries dÊArt, also known as the École de Nancy (School of
Nancy), was officially founded. In accordance with Art Nouveau principles, its artists
wanted to abolish the hierarchies that existed between major arts like painting and
sculpture and the decorative arts, which were then considered minor.
The School of Nancy artists, whose most fervent representatives were Emile Gallé, the
Daum brothers (Auguste and Antonin) and Louis Majorelle, produced floral and plant
stylisations, expressions of a precious and fragile world that they nevertheless wanted to
see industrially reproduced and distributed on a much larger scale, beyond coteries of
galleries and collectors.

The Months Postcard: July, 1899.
Colour lithograph, diameter 8.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.

32

Art Nouveau ultimately proliferated endemically throughout the world, often through
the intermediary of art magazines such as The Studio, Arts et Idées and Art et
Décoration, whose illustrations were henceforth enhanced with photos and colour
lithography. As the trend spread from one country to the next, it changed by
integrating local colour, transforming itself into a different style according to the city
it was in.

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Art Nouveau at the 1900
Universal Exposition in Paris
History has selected England, Belgium, and France as the undisputed primary sources of
Art NouveauÊs development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but contemporaries
were unaware of this supremacy. In its section devoted to the decorative arts, the 1900
Universal Exposition in Paris, which called for the construction of both the Grand and Petit
Palais, among other buildings, offered a sampling that gave a taste of the real flavour of
the period. For example, Gaudí, now inseparable from Spanish Art Nouveau and a
major architect who gave us the image of Barcelona we know today, was the ExpositionÊs
major no-show: he failed to participate in the construction of the pavilions and none of
his plans were shown. At the same time, countries such as Russia, Hungary, and
Romania, long since forgotten in the history of Art Nouveau, were well represented
alongside other countries that history wrongly seems to barely remember.

The French Pavilion
France showed great artistic merit in bijouterie, joaillerie, ceramics, and glassware – all
magical arts of fire – as well as in sculpture and medallions. The triumph of France in all
of these arts was unmistakable.
In the enchanting art of glass, one of the worldÊs oldest arts, and one that seemed to have
exhausted every conceivable combination of line and colour, every quest for a perfect
union between stones, precious metals, and enamel, between chasing and the gluing of
precious stones and pearls, Lalique was a genius who could surprise, dazzle, and delight
the eye with new and truly exquisite colourations in all his creations, with the fantasy and
the charm of his imagination with which he animated them, and with his bold and
inexhaustible creativity. Like a philosopher grading stones on their artistic value alone,
sometimes elevating the most humble to the highest honours and drawing unfamiliar
effects from the most familiar, and like a magician who can pull something out of thin air,
Lalique was a tireless and perpetual inventor of new forms and beauties, who truly
created an art form in his own style, which now and forever bears his name.
As is the prerogative of genius, Lalique steered his art into unchartered territory and others
followed whatever direction he took. There was joy and pride at the triumphant manifestation
of French taste in its plateresque palace, thanks to the masters of French bijouterie, joaillerie,
and silver, such as Lalique, Alexis Falize, Henri Vever, Fernand Thesmar, and many others, all

Decorative Plate with Symbol of Paris,
1897.
Ceramic, diameter: 31 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Byzantine Heads: Brunette, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 34.5 x 28 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 36)
Byzantine Heads: Blonde, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 34.5 x 28 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 37)

35

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relatively prestigious, and thanks to the masters of glass and ceramics, such as the still unrivalled
Gallé, the Daum brothers, and the artists of the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres, and Albert
Dammouse, Auguste Delaherche, Pierre Adrien Dalpeyrat, and Lesbros among others.
It was a splendid victory for Art Nouveau as a new decorative art movement, given what
Lalique and the other French masters set out to accomplish. They had endeavoured to free
themselves from imitation, from the eternal copy, from the old clichés and plaster casts that
were always being recycled and had already been seen and were now overly familiar and
worn-out. Their work was new, even to them. These masters on the Esplanade des Invalides
therefore deserve our utmost gratitude, because in this exhibition they made certain that
FranceÊs artistic supremacy would be revealed once and for all. The French exhibitors
included the artists of the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres, whose revitalised works of perfect
beauty may have saved the life and the honour of French manufacturers; other masters of the
applied arts; and no doubt a few practitioners of the fine arts, whose work did not always
display the same quality as the work of the minor artists they were so contemptuous of. But
whatever oneÊs opinion of the new decorative art, similar victories were henceforth more and
more difficult to win, as FranceÊs steady rivals made even greater strides.

The English Pavilion
Art Nouveau was already brilliantly represented in England by 1878, especially in
furniture. The movement was in its early stages, but England and Belgium, for various
reasons, were underrepresented at the 1900 Exposition in Paris.
English furniture was only prominently displayed by Mr Waring and Robert Gillow and
by Ambrose Heal.

La Plume, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 24.5 x 18 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Fruit, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 66.2 x 44.4 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 40)
Flower, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 66.2 x 44.4 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 41)

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For every few well-conceived pieces displaying an elegance that was truly new, there
were countless others that were overly contorted and ornate, in ugly colours and poorly
adapted to function, or designed with such excessive simplicity and pretence that English
furniture was seriously compromised in the eyes of critiques – and everyone else. One
could grope and search about, but with a few exceptions, the furniture was too often
imperfectly designed – without logic and serious purpose, a structural frame, or even
comfort in mind. These criticisms, however were perhaps best directed less at England
and Belgium than to other foreign countries.
England failed to show anything really new or exceptional that year. And yet there was
one perfect example of its highly developed artistic mastery: the little pavilion that housed
the miniature fleet of the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company, a supremely
elegant piece owing to the collaboration of Collcutt (architect), Moira (wall decoration),
and Jenkins (sculptures).

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The American Pavilion
The decorative arts owe much to the United States, at least to the admirable New York
artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, who truly revived the art of glass, as did Gallé in France but
with different techniques. Like the brilliant artist from Nancy, Tiffany was not satisfied with
being a prestigious glass artist: he was also a silversmith and ornamentalist. Above all he
was a great poet, in the sense that he was continually inventing and creating beauty. For
his young country, bursting with energy and brimming with wealth, Tiffany seems to have
dreamed of an art of unprecedented sumptuousness, only comparable to the luxurious art
of Byzantium in its combination of gravitas and bedazzlement. Tiffany has provided us with
much joy. One senses his desire to revive lost grandeur and to create new splendours such
as had never been seen before. He meant for his mosaics to create a sense of wonder
when they decorated stairways and adorned residences. Such homes would be
illuminated by day with dazzling and opalescent Tiffany windows and by night with Tiffany
lamps and chandeliers, splendid and calm like mysterious stars; in such settings Tiffany
glass would emit sparkling beams as if shot from precious stones or would filter in the
tender, milky, lunar gleam of the light of dawn or of dusk. Tiffany was among the biggest
winners of this Exposition, along with certain French masters, the Danes, and the Japanese.

The Belgian Pavilion
Belgium was entitled to a large space at the exposition, due to the respect and interest it
attracted on account of its traditions, its history, and its connection with Art Nouveau
issues, pursuits, and curiosities, indeed on account of all its artistic and industrial labour,
which was great for such a small nation.
Unfortunately, Belgium exhibited little; even the exhibit at the Grand Palais failed to
include the worthy Belgian school of sculpture. This was a lively and passionate school
with many excellent artists that are honoured today, the foremost being Constantin
Meunier, a moving master of noble simplicity and a poet of stoic and heroic human
labour (like his counterpart Millet in France) and a master of human compassion (like his
counterparts Jozef Israels and Fritz von Uhde). At least BelgiumÊs undeniable and major
influence on Art Nouveau made itself felt throughout the Exposition. But Serrurier-Bovy,
Théo Van Rysselbergh, Armand Rassenfosse, and many others, especially Horta, Hankar,
and Georges Hobé generated a lot of comment by their absence in the Palais des
Invalides and the Palais des Beaux-Arts.
What was nevertheless very beautiful, and worthy of the new Belgian art, was Franz
HoosemanÊs silver work and Philippe WolferÊs bijouterie. Also highly interesting were
BockÊs ceramics (especially the delicate artistÊs lively stoneware masks) and Isidore de
RudderÊs sculpture.

Monaco Monte Carlo, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 110.5 x 76.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.

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Vin des Incas, 1897.
Colour lithograph,13.6 x 36 cm.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

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The German Pavilion
In the semi-absence of England and Belgium it was Germany (and perhaps France) that
best represented Art Nouveau at the 1900 Universal Exposition. GermanyÊs progress in
decorative art was astonishing, and considering the country had stopped following and
studying foreign artistic production, the revelation came as a surprise, almost a shock.
Art Nouveau was the victor throughout Germany, from Berlin to Vienna. In Prussia, the
style reflected imperial taste, no doubt somewhat heavy and massive, as the new
Germany, now moving closer to Kaiserism, chose a decorative style reminiscent of
French First Empire.
The minor gallant courts of 18th-century Germany had followed the French model,
demanding nothing of art but frivolity, prettiness, and feminine charm and mannerisms –
the delightful style of Madame Pompadour, which culminated in the Rococo and the
Baroque. Later, at the start of the 20th century, it was necessary and made sense for the
robust and serious German empire to adopt a solid and severe style.
Germany acquired a reputation for beautiful and elaborate wrought iron; a return to past
traditions (such as painted façades and sculpted woodwork); and above all, its rich
development (in every sense of the word) of its decorative art and its consistent attention to
the decoration and preservation of its national architecture, for the Germans (like the English)
were actively restoring their architectural heritage throughout German cities and provinces.
The movement in Germany therefore was also on the whole very national in orientation.
Dominated by foreign influences throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Germany had
reconnected its present to its noble past and, in restoring cities like Hildesheim and
Brunswick, among many others, with a great deal of respect and patriotism, it rightly
rediscovered its taste for polychrome, painted façades, and the colourful sculpted wood,
that, in places, made for such a charming decor.

Rêverie, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 72.7 x 55.2 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Childhood from the Chocolat Masson
Calendar, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 30 x 21 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 48)
Youth from the Chocolat Masson
Calendar, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 30 x 21 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 49)

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But internationalism and cosmopolitanism triumphed in German furniture (especially in
Austria, perhaps due to the artists of the Secession, who were under many foreign
influences), where Germans executed Art NouveauÊs famous dancing line with complete
abandon, exuberance, and frenzy.
Yet, even in furniture, there was no less proof of renewed German taste and the highly
charged and sometimes excellent new German awareness of decorative art. Germans
demonstrated a fervent desire for decorative art, which they satisfied by thoroughly
applying it everywhere, to everything, and for everybody.
As for wrought iron, the Germans, who were fond of techniques utilising fire, softened it,
moulded it, shaped it, and worked wonders with it. The black vegetation and flowers that

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they obtained, and all the sumptuous ironwork of German doors and gates, truly evoked
the magnificence of ancient Germany.
The Germans also made extensive and highly skilled use of wood. The beautiful vaulted
ceiling of Professor Riegelmann, which was made entirely of sculpted wood, represented
an imitation of the ancient ceilings of the German and Swiss Renaissance, now dotted
with electric lights for night.
Finally, the Germans exercised great artistry in their delightful application of mural painting
and polychrome to the decoration of buildings and houses, for example, the slender and
elegantly built Pavilion de la Rue des Nations, which was the brilliant work of the architect
Johannes Radke, and also the reproduction of the Phare de Brême (Bremen Lighthouse) with
its superbly decorated entrance. Whereas all of this was not absolutely new, it was
justifiably revitalised, reclaimed from their national heritage, and outstanding in every way.
Yes, the Germans, too, had scored a wonderful artistic victory. They had, above all,
demonstrated a most praiseworthy passion that rarely concerns us today: the desire to
include art, decoration, and beauty in all things.
Compare the attention they brought to the task of fitting out and arraying their painting
galleries to the almost careless indifference that France applied to preparing its own
galleries and you will see the lesson to be learned here.
Among the deserving works remaining for discussion among the ExpositionÊs German
sections of applied art is the furniture of Spindler. With Spindler (as with the Nancy
masters Gallé and Majorelle) one finds that the marquetry of his furniture is beautiful,
whereas the line is somewhat less so, too often tentative or affected.
Spindler was an Alsatian who exercised astonishing mastery to great effect in his marquetry;
possessing the skills of a painter, he put poetry and emotion into his wood panels.
Germany was also notable for beautiful electric chandeliers – a new genre of decorative art
that the Germans (and the English) were typically adept at. The ExhibitionÊs Bremen Lighthouse
was decorated with motifs reflecting the function of the illuminated building. A splendid fixture
with a shark and sea birds at the centre of a large crown and with electric globes suspended
from fishing hooks, descending lightly like pearls, remains a stunning example. Was the artist
thinking of the lavish crowns of the Visigoths? It would prove that a talented artist can always
derive new and modern motifs from ancient themes if he really wants to.
Max LäugerÊs wall-hung fountains and ceramic chimneys were also extremely beautiful. The
chimneys were English-style with enamelled plaques framing the fireplace recess, but in a dark
green, severe style. In Germany, the large stove placed against the wall familiar to northern

Poster for Salon des Cent Mucha
Exhibition June 1897 , 1897.
Colour lithograph, 66.2 x 46 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Hommage Respectueux de Nestlé
(the Nestlé Company’s tribute to
Queen Victoria’s 60th Jubilee), 1897.
Colour lithograph, 300 x 200 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (pp. 52-53)

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countries had become a popular Art Nouveau motif, sometimes depicted in sunny interiors
that were bright and dazzling due to the enamel and the copperware that decorated them.
In ceramics, one could admire new high-fire porcelain with pure enamel produced by the
Royal Manufactory of Charlottenburg and the Meissen factory, and earthenware from the
Mettlach factory.
German tradition dominated the sumptuous silver work of Professor Götz (from Karlsruhe) and
Professors Heinrich Waderé, Fritz von Miller, and Petzold (from Munich), all worthy of renown.
The art of Bruckman, Deylhe, and Schnauer (from Hamburg) and Schmitz (from Cologne)
was more modern.
Germany also exhibited beautiful stained glass windows, whose design, manufacture,
and colour brought honour to Professor Geiger (from Fribourg), as well as Llebert (from
Dresden), and Luthé (from Frankfurt).
As for glass, need we remind you of the exquisite work of the engraver Karl Köpping, who
produced glasses on long, refined, slender stems like flowers, charming in both form and colour?

The Austrian Pavilion
Austrian art contrasted sharply with that of northern Germany. Whereas northern
GermanyÊs art was often severe and dreary, labouring under an excessive burden of
discipline, Austrian art was rather pleasant and feminine.

Monaco Monte Carlo (detail), 1897.
Colour lithograph, 110.5 x 76.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Adulthood from the Chocolat Masson
Calendar, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 30 x 21 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 56)
Old Age from the Chocolat Masson
Calendar, 1897.
Colour Lithograph, 30 x 21 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 57)

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In the Austria of Vienna, Art Nouveau was less nationalist and idiosyncratic than in
northern Germany. A crossroads of many peoples where cosmopolitanism reigned,
Vienna was necessarily dominated by its excellent School of Applied arts, directed by
chevalier Salla, which showed work of the highest quality. The wonderful lace produced
by the Herdlickas and by Miss Hoffmaninger, which was so innovative in its design and
technique, is definitely worthy of the label Art Nouveau.

The Hungarian Pavilion
Hungary, still focused on independence, seemed to express a desire for artistic autonomy
in relation to Vienna.
Proud of its glorious past, rich in ancient and wonderful treasures that radiated
magnificent Oriental influences, Hungary, which had completed its new and beautiful

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Budapest Museum of Applied Arts under the active and highly intelligent direction of Jenö
Radisics de Kutas, seemed still unable to decide between two different paths in art (and
literature): the faithful preservation of its national tradition or the path to an art that was
free. The latter choice had its merits, but it also had the drawback of building the same
sumptuous and banal homes in Budapest as in Frankfurt, Vienna, and Berlin.
Like Romania, Hungary mined the depths of its past for decorative motifs that would
enable it to establish an originality in art that was as pure and distinct as the uniqueness
of its music and literature.
Hungary attracted attention at the Exposition primarily with its historical pavilion and the
decor of its sections, as well as its earthenware, glazed stoneware, glass, and copper
enamel. Beautiful coloured porcelain vases were a credit to the Herend Factory.
Miklos Zsolnay excelled in metallic reflections: in the polychrome surface of the vestibule
leading to the recently created Museum of Applied Arts, the reddish-gold reflections of his
glazed bricks produced a magnificent fiery effect. BapoportÊs new copper enamel work
in blues and pinks was also exquisite and extremely fine.
There was too little on display from Bohemia, but it showed the same dual tendencies
and BohemiaÊs School of Decorative Arts still wavered between them. Prague also had
its own Museum of Applied Art and a National Museum, valued above all for an
extraordinary collection of traditional popular costume.
Among the Bohemians, the following deserve mention: the iridescent glass manufactured
by de Spaun that was inspired by the Favrile Glass and that made a version of Tiffany
(certainly less refined) accessible to all; the decorative high-fire porcelain manufactured
by Messrs Fisher and Mieg of Pirkenhammer, under the direction of a Frenchman named
Carrière; and lastly, the Decorative School of Prague for its simple glazed earthenware,
so lovely in form and decoration.
Thanks to the architecture of their pavilion and to the brilliant decorative talent of Alphonse
Mucha (who drew and painted with fertile imagination, as passionately as a Gypsy playing
the violin), Bosnia and Herzegovina, still completely Oriental, enjoyed great success at the
Exposition. In spite of their political and social transformation, these countries had remained
faithful to Oriental tradition in their art, and they would have been wrong to abandon it.

The Dutch Pavilion
The traditional decor of the Netherlands is so charming that it would have been a shame
to want to change it. In the buildings of the early 20th century, in The Hague and in

Cover of Wiener Chic (January), 1905.
Monochrome print, 44 x 33 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Language of Flowers (Byzantine)
(detail), c. 1900.
Colour lithograph, 29.8 x 223 cm.
Collection of Robert Allan Haas,
Kansas City. (pp. 60-61)

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Amsterdam, neo-Flemish taste, masterfully handled, usually triumphed. But the
Netherlands also participated in the new movement, often with exceptional feeling. What
a pity that the Netherlands failed to exhibit architectural drawings at the Exposition,
because some of the houses in the new quarters being built near the museum had
exquisite line and colouration: light touches of soft colour in the pale green hues that
harmonise so well with brick. Department stores, boutiques, brasseries, and new cafes in
Amsterdam and elsewhere boasted truly innovative ornament.
The fabric designs of Thorn Prikker, as well as those of Jan Toorop, were also of interest.
These designers apparently based their peculiar visions of long, bony figurines on the
strange, grimacing puppets among the Pantheon of characters in the Javanese Puppet
Theatre, proving that Dutch taste was not always severe and Protestant. Dutch contact
with the Far East may be a source of the imagination and fantasy that sometimes
appears in Dutch forms and decoration. The Far East could also be the source of the
forms and decoration produced by the Rozenburg factory in The Hague (later
deservedly appointed royal manufacturer by the Queen) that gave Dutch porcelain – so
exotic, intricately shaped and decorated, but also extremely beautiful, rare, and pure –
its astonishing lightness. Dutch glazed clay pottery with polychrome decoration was also
notable. Finally, Joost Thooft and Labouchère deserve acknowledgement for reviving the
former Porceleyne Fles factory (especially Jacoba earthenware), thereby revitalising the
art of Old Delft.

The Danish Pavilion

Job, 1898.
Colour lithograph, 149.2 x 101 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague.
Waverley Cycles (detail), 1898.
Colour lithograph, 88.5 x 114 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (pp. 64-65)

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The Royal Copenhagen factory deserved every form of praise it received, as did the Bing
and Gröndahl Porcelain Factory, which fearlessly went into competition and friendly
conflict with Royal Copenhagen, but which, under the skilled and stern management of
Willumsen, concentrated on plastic decorations. There is little that has not already been
said about these porcelains, about their blue and white colourations, so soft, tender, and
easy on the eye, about the decoration of the plates and vases, where the Danes with
such taste and dexterity evoked JapanÊs delicate decoration even as they translated it. It
was Sèvres that paid this Danish factory its greatest tribute by henceforth imitating it
gloriously, but in a way that did both factories justice. Sèvres owed its own renaissance
and resounding victory partly to the Danish factory. Certainly Sèvres surpassed its rival,
but it was a rival from whom it had learned how to win. Royal Copenhagen porcelain
long remained the undisputed artistic triumph of this gentle and noble country.
But there were other examples of Danish artistry. CopenhagenÊs Town Hall, designed by
Martin Nyrop, was then among the most beautiful in Europe, and its traditional,
exceedingly pure style, with its thoroughly national decor, made it one of the most
interesting, if not the most extraordinary building in Northern Europe.

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The Swedish and Norwegian Pavilions
SwedenÊs contribution to the Exhibition was hardly an Art Nouveau revelation, although the
movement had penetrated the country and was apparent in simple buildings, country
homes, and railroad stations, sometimes with charming modernity. This rather disturbed the
Swedish societies for industrial art had been established to encourage and maintain
respect for SwedenÊs national tradition, and thus Art Nouveau met with some ambivalence.
Among the Scandinavian countries, Norway most faithfully upheld its artistic traditions
and respected the spirit of its people.
Norway contributed some well-executed pieces of furniture that were among the best in
the Exposition. These items were in the style of NorwayÊs exemplary national
ornamentation (somewhat transposed and modernised), which is so unusual, refined, and
vigorous and of which Norway (along with Iceland) preserves the most precious remains
in certain types of architecture, ivories, and sculpted wood.
The decoration by Johan Borgersen (from Christiania) of one the Norwegian sections with
beautiful, rich Scandinavian-style tracery sculpted in red and green-stained wood was
worthy of distinction. It is still cause for amazement that the dining room of the Norwegian
Arts and Crafts Association, with its green-stained woodwork and red mahogany furniture,
enhanced with elegant verdigris metal fittings, was not awarded a silver medal at the time.
Fine-quality enamel work also flourished in Norway. It was the same art of enamel as
found in Russia, and Anderson, Olsen, and Marius Hammer handled it with equal
brilliance among the silversmiths of Christiania and Bergen. Tostrup, an artist with a
sensitive imagination and perfect execution was foremost among them, producing (in
Christiania) translucent enamels of extreme beauty and refinement. One of his works in
particular was exquisitely designed in form and colour: a blue enamel cup on a stem, it
looked poised to open like the calyx of a magic flower.
Finally, the following works were also admirable: the beautiful earthenware of Lerche and
the tapestries of Frida Hansen (along with the more old-fashioned tapestries of Gehrard
Munthe and Holmboe).

The Russian Pavilion
Russia and Finland surprised and delighted viewers. Here, more than anywhere else,
unadulterated national tradition appropriately triumphed in Art Nouveau. In short, Russia
rediscovered the hidden treasures of its past and awoke to the profound soul of its peoples.
One day Russia (like England), in the midst of its aesthetic revolution, was shocked to see a

The West End Review, 1898.
Colour lithograph, 30 x 218 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.

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Latin monument – standing out from the rest and by a talented French architect, but still a copy
after RomeÊs Saint Peters Cathedral – being raised in the centre of its capital to serve as the
cathedral of its Greek Orthodox faith. Russia (like England) thus wanted a new Art that
responded to its new and fervently felt patriotism. However beautiful Etienne FalconnetÊs statue
of Peter the Great was, crowned with laurels and, under his divine emperorÊs toga, heroically
nude in the winter snow, it was not as prized by the Russians, who were in the process of
extricating themselves from western influence, as the vigorous and superb statue of Peter the
Great with his boots on, majestically clenching his stick in one hand with authoritative
determination: the Peter the Great by RussiaÊs first truly great sculptor, Markus Antokolski.
In architecture, this patriotic sentiment created the highly respected neo-Russian Style, which
was especially prevalent in Moscow, in the Church of Saint-Saviour and in Red Square, in
the Museum of Antiquities and the new Gastiniï-Dvor. Ingenious architects with confident taste
made brilliant use of enamel and mosaic coverings in the richly polychrome decoration of
churches, monuments, and houses, such as the neo-Russian style Igoumnov house in Moscow.
But the national aesthetic movement was first evident in music. The new Russia had
deigned listen to its popular music, all the folk songs in which Russians cried, moaned,
and sighed, or were suddenly lifted up in gaiety and joie de vivre, wildly laughing and
dancing along the Volga and the Black Sea, and in them the new Russia discovered the
melancholy, sorrows, dreams, and exaltations of its people. Russians listened with surprise
and delight to sad songs expressing the infinite sorrow of the Russian steppes, to lonely
songs reflecting the bleakness of RussiaÊs autumn and winter skies, and to tender and
strange songs full of the affection and eccentricity of the individuals among its vast sea of
peoples. So they came, after Glinka, the Russian musicians: Cui, Borodine, Tchaikovsky,
Mussorgsky, Balakirev, Seroff, Rimsky-Korsakov, and their followers. For starters, they
wanted to become Russian again (or simply to remain Russian). Although they would not
deliver on all their promises and achieve all their dreams, they nevertheless created a
lively and active new school of music that was already illustrious.

Cover from Soleil du Dimanche
(detail), 1897.
Magazine cover, 41 x 28 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
F. Guillot-Pelletier Calendar, 1897.
Colour lithograph, 37 x 53.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (pp. 70-71)

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In the realm of painting, some Russian artists managed to free themselves from foreign
influences. But in our eyes, the man who made the greatest contribution to the new decorative
art was unquestionably Viktor Vasnetsov, a supreme artist. It was an astonishing display of
ignorance about foreign art, when no one at the Exposition knew how to classify or judge him
(not to mention the fact his work was simply under-represented). Such a master deserved more
than a silver medal! To us, Vasnetsov is among the top Russian and European artists, along with
Ilya Repin, Antokolski, and the amazing Troubetzkoï, who has just emerged. Although, in
temperament and in their art, the latter artists are more western than Vasnetsov is; they are less
faithful to older tradition than he was and, ethnically, semi-eastern. Vasnetsov alone was
responsible for almost the entire decoration of KievÊs Saint-Vladimir Cathedral, one of the most
glorious monuments of contemporary Russian art. In this church and elsewhere Vasnetsov
infused many paintings with moving religious and national mysticism. The legendary ancient

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soul of Russia lives again in Vasnetsov. This mystic is moreover (and primarily) an exquisite
master ornamentalist, a miniaturist whose work looks like it came out of the convents of old.
Several of VasnetsovÊs menus (for example, the one intended for the banquet of the last
coronation) are masterpieces of the purest Russian ornamental style. Finally, Vasnetsov
decorated and furnished his Moscow isba (a northern style country cabin) in the latest
fashion, which happened to be the most traditional and the simplest of styles: the rustic
style. Perhaps this house, where Vasnetsov authored everything, and where everything
makes for a harmonious ensemble, is the source of the delightful new decorative art we
now see flourishing in Russia and which was given a strong impetus by VasnetsovÊs victory
at our Exposition.
The favour enjoyed north of the Kremlin by all the artists who contributed to the ExpositionÊs
Russian Village in the Trocadero Gardens is well known. But one master stood out among the
others: Constantin Alexeievitch Korovine, a painter, sculptor, and architect who was
responsible for the vigorous and colourful naïve-style constructions in the popular northern
style. As a painter, Korovine also produced the decorative landscapes in the Russian Palace
of Asia, which revealed his very individual and sincere talent. Anyone who has perused the
collection of albums at Maison Mamontof, or who has admired the delightful Russian stringed
instruments known as balalaikas made by Alexandre Lakovlevitch Golovine, Malioutine,
Princess Ténicheff, and Korovine (again) will understand how decorative art in Russia rightly
regenerated itself from the mysterious and invigorating resources of popular tradition.
Lastly, the art of enamel was also shown to brilliant advantage by Owtchinnikoff and Gratscheff.

The Finnish Pavilion
Finland was located some distance from Russia at the exhibition, as if Finland wanted to
distinguish herself from Russia. The Finnish pavilion was a highly original and pure
masterpiece of decoration and architecture. It also provided a good demonstration of the
extent to which the newest, most modern art could draw on past tradition and how right it
was for a people of national pride and passion to attach themselves to their own tradition.
Everyone justifiably praised Eliel Saarinen, the exceptional and sensitive artist who created
the Finnish Pavilion. The entire pavilionÊs ornamentation, both exterior and interior, was new
and intriguing, harmonious in line and colour, solemn, impeccable. It represented an art
that was entirely individual and remote, foreign, strange, and nevertheless very modern,
where, translated in exquisite taste, the memories of a profound past appeared, including
memories of ancient peasant houses or old-fashioned country churches with bell towers.
A beautiful illustration will be that of Kalewala by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, whose mural
paintings for this pavilion revealed a mystical genius haunted by heroic and divine legends.

Cycles Perfecta (detail), 1902.
Colour lithograph, 53 x 35 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.

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The Romanian Pavilion
Romania, which owes its artistic heritage to the East and to the Greek Orthodox church, was
taking back its memories, its dispersed fragments (as did Hungary), in order to forge a new
art, at least in its architecture. The Queen of Romania (simultaneously a respected poet, artist,
and queen) presided over and contributed to this positive restoration of national tradition more
than anyone in her country. Not only in the architecture of churches, buildings, and houses,
currently sometimes splendidly decorated with oriental polychrome, but she also contributed in
the exquisite art of embroidery decorating the costumes that remain so colourful in many regions
of Romania, and which is being abandoned and will perhaps soon disappear regardless of
what is done with those other still-cherished remains of the past, popular song and dance.

The Swiss Pavilion
Among the smaller countries, which can be rather large in their sense of history and in
their current activity, Switzerland is of great interest to us because it was reclaiming its old
artistic traditions in order to revitalise and modernise them. Switzerland was headed in
this direction at the last Exposition in Geneva, which revealed (although less effectively
and thoroughly than the amazing national museums established in Basel and Zurich) a
national art that was truly Swiss and either misunderstood or unknown to us, an art of its
own, despite certainly more than one foreign influence (primarily GermanyÊs). Nothing
was more original, charming, and gay than the decoration of its pavilions for Food and
its pavilion for the Swiss Watch-Making Industry, by Bouvier. Finally, the following Swiss
achievements should be noted: the cloisonné enamels on wood or plaster, so charming
in decoration by Heaton of Neufchatel; the silks of Saint-Gall and Adlissweill (which
warranted greater vigilance from the French silk trade in Lyon out of jealous respect for
these worrisome Swiss rivals); the greater attention given to the needed revival of all art
forms; and the work of GenevaÊs School of Industrial Arts.

Adaptation from The Months
Postcard: September and Documents
Decoratifs, 1899 and 1902.
Colour lithograph, diameter 8.5 cm
and 46 x 33 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Sarah Bernhardt, Lefèvre-Utile, 1903.
Oil on canvas, 72 x 53 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 76)

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The Universal Exposition of 1900 presented a much grander view of Art NouveauÊs
development than the image of Art Nouveau retained by subsequent decades. The event
is therefore a true testament to the trend, defining the new movement as nearly universal
and moreover highly national in character. The aesthetic renewal that came out of the
Decorative Arts and that rapidly spread to other areas (such as architecture and music),
advocating Unity of Work (one Art in everything and for everything) really was present in
nearly every western country, but each country chose to apply its own taste to the trend
and in this way the movement was a multi-faceted cultural phenomenon among different
populations. EnglandÊs Modern Style (born out of the Arts and Crafts movement), FranceÊs
Art Nouveau, GermanyÊs Jugendstil, and even the Austrian Secession movement are all
good examples. If the ideals of modernity and aesthetics remained the same, the works
themselves always responded to purely national taste and expertise.

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MUCHA

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Mucha and Art Nouveau
Mucha and Art Nouveau
Since the Art Nouveau revival of the 1960s, when students around the world adorned
their rooms with reproductions of Mucha posters of girls with tendril-like hair and the
designers of record sleeves produced Mucha imitations in hallucinogenic colours,
Alphonse MuchaÊs name has been irrevocably associated with the Art Nouveau style and
with the Parisian fin-de-siècle.
Artists rarely like to be categorised and Mucha would have resented the fact that he is
almost exclusively remembered for a phase of his art that lasted barely ten years and that
he was regarded as of lesser importance. As a passionate Czech patriot he would have
also been unhappy to be regarded as a „Parisian‰ artist.
Mucha was born on 24 July, 1860 at Ivancice in Moravia, then a province of the vast
Habsburg Empire. It was an empire that was already splitting apart at the seams under the
pressures of the burgeoning nationalism of its multi-ethnic component parts. In the year before
MuchaÊs birth, nationalist aspirations throughout the Habsburg Empire were encouraged by
the defeat of the Austrian army in Lombardy that preceded the unification of Italy.
In the first decade of MuchaÊs life, Czech nationalism found expression in the orchestral
tone poems of Bedrich Smetana that he collectively entitled „Ma Vlast‰ (My country) and
in his great epic opera „Dalibor‰ (1868). It was symptomatic of the Czech nationalist
struggle against the German cultural domination of Central Europe, in that the text of
„Dalibor‰ had to be written in German and translated into Czech.
From his earliest days Mucha would have imbibed the heady and fervent atmosphere of
Slav nationalism that pervades „Dalibor‰ and SmetanaÊs subsequent pageant of Czech
history, „Libuse‰, which was used to open the Czech National Theatre in 1881, and for
which Mucha himself would later provide set and costume designs.
Mucha was born into relatively humble circumstances, as the son of a court usher. His
own son, Jiri Mucha, would later proudly trace the presence of the Mucha family in the
town of Ivancice back to the 15th century. If his family was poor, MuchaÊs upbringing was
nevertheless abundant with artistic stimulation and encouragement.
According to his son Jiri, „He drew even before he learnt to walk and his mother would tie a
pencil round his neck with a coloured ribbon so that he could draw as he crawled on the floor.

Lance Parfum Rodo (detail), 1896.
Colour lithograph, 44.5 x 32 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
Poster for Documents décoratifs,
plate 56, 1902.
Colour lithograph, 46 x 33 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague. (p.80)
Poster for Documents décoratifs,
plate 57, 1902.
Colour lithograph, 46 x 33 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague. (p. 81)
Dusk, 1899.
Colour Lithograph, 68 x 103 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (pp. 82-83)
Study for The Moon, 1902.
Pen and wash drawing and
watercolour, 56 x 21 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 84)
Study for The Evening Star, 1902.
Pen and wash drawing and
watercolour, 56 x 21 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 84)
Study for The North Star, 1902.
Pen and wash drawing and
watercolour, 56 x 21 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 85)
Study for The Morning Star, 1902.
Pen and wash drawing and
watercolour, 56 x 21 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 85)

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Each time he lost the pencil, he would start howling.‰ His first important aesthetic experience
would have been in the Baroque church of St Peter in the local capital of Brno where, from
the age of ten, he sang as a choir-boy in order to support his studies in the grammar school.
During his four years as a chorister he came into frequent contact with Leoš Janácek, who
would later come to be known as the greatest Czech composer of his generation with whom
Mucha shared a passion to create a characteristically Czech art.
The luxurious theatricality of Central European Baroque with its lush curvilinear and natureinspired decoration undoubtedly coloured his imagination and inspired a taste for „smells and
bells‰ and religious paraphernalia that remained with him throughout his life. At the height of
his fame, his studio was described as being like a „secular chapel⁄ screens placed here
and there, that could well be confessionals; and then incense burning all the time. ItÊs more
like the chapel of an oriental monk than a studio.‰ While earning a living as a clerk, Mucha
continued to indulge his love of drawing and in 1877, he gathered together his self-taught
body of work and attempted unsuccessfully to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
After two more years of drudgery as a civil servant, he lost his job, according to Jiri
Mucha, because he drew the portraits of a picturesque family of gypsies instead of taking
down their particulars. In 1879, he spotted an advertisement in a Viennese newspaper
for the firm of Kautsky-Brioschi-Burghardt, makers of theatrical scenery who were looking
for designers and craftsmen.
Mucha sent off examples of his work and this time he was successful and received an
offer for a job. As a country boy who had been no further than the picturesque (but still
provincial) Prague, Vienna in 1879 must have looked awesomely grand.
It had recently undergone what was, after HaussmannÊs Paris, the most impressive scheme
of urban renewal of the 19th century. Each of the great public buildings lining the
Ringstrasse, which replaced the old ramparts that had encircled the medieval town
centre, was built in a historical style, deemed appropriate to its purpose.
The result was a grandiose architectural fancy-dress ball. The Art Nouveau style, of which
Mucha would later become one of the most famous representatives, reacted directly
against this kind of pompous wedding cake historicism. For the moment though, Mucha
was deeply influenced by the showy and decorative art of Hans Mackart, the most
successful Viennese painter of the Ringstrasse period.
After barely two years, MuchaÊs Viennese sojourn came to an abrupt end. On 10
December 1881, the Ringtheater burnt down. In a century punctuated by terrible theatre
fires, this was one of the worst, claiming the lives of over five hundred members of the
audience. The Ringtheater was also one of the principal clients of the firm of KautskyBrioschi-Burghardt and in the aftermath of the disaster, Mucha lost his job.

Two Standing Women, Design for
Documents décoratifs, board 45, 1902.
Pencil, feather and indian ink on paper,
46 x 33 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague.

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Mucha moved to the small town of Mikulov and fell back upon the time-honoured artistic
tradition of making ends meet: making portraits of local dignitaries. His unusual way of
attracting a clientele is related in his memoirs. He booked a room at the „Lion Hotel‰ and
managed to sell a drawing of some local ruins to a dealer called Thiery who displayed
it in his shop window and quickly sold it on:
So I got busy drawing again, not ruins this time, but the people around me. I painted
the head of a pretty woman and brought it to Thiery. He put it into the window and
I began to look forward to the cash. When there was no news from Thiery for two
and even three days, I went to ask him myself. The good man wasnÊt pleased to see
me. Mikulov society was filled with indignation, and my picture had to be taken out
of the window.
The young lady I had painted was the wife of the local doctor, and Thiery had put a
notice next to the portrait saying, ÂFor five florins at the Lion HotelÊ. The scandal was duly
explained and in the end worked out to my advantage. The whole town knew that a
painter had come to live at the Lion. In the course of time, I painted the whole
neighbourhood – all the uncles and aunts of Mikulov.
It was while he was living in Mikulov that Mucha encountered the first of the two patrons
who were to transform his career. One was a wealthy local landowner called Count
Khuen, who invited Mucha to decorate the dining room in the newly-built castle of
Emmahof with frescoes. This was MuchaÊs first encounter with murals and initiated a lifelong ambition of painting large-scale decorative work.
Even the posters of the 1890s, on which MuchaÊs fame now largely rests, can be seen as
reflecting this desire to decorate walls. Such a desire was common to many artists of the
fin-de-siècle. The large scale decorative paintings of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, the most
widely-admired and influential artist of the period, were commonly referred to as „fresques‰
though they were in fact oil paintings on canvas that simulated the effect of frescoes.

Nude in a Decorative Frame. Drawing
for Documents décoratifs, Board 10,
1902.
Pencil, Indian ink and white highlights
on paper, 61 x 23 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague.
Woman Holding Mistletoe. Drawing
for Documents décoratifs, Board 11,
1902.
Ink drawing and white highlights on
paper, 46 x 33 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague.

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The manifesto of the Symbolist „Salon de la Rose-Croix‰ set up in 1892 by „Sar‰ Joséphin
Péladan, stated „The Order prefers work which has a mural-like character as being of
superior essence.‰ The paintings of Edvard MunchÊs „Frieze of Life‰ and the flat, stylised
canvases of Gauguin could be regarded as „fresques manquées‰.
Albert Aurier, the very first critic who attempted to introduce GauguinÊs work to the French
public wrote „You have among you a decorator of genius. Walls! Walls! Give him
walls!‰. We can only judge MuchaÊs murals for Count Khuen from dim black and white
photographs as the originals were destroyed in the final days of the Second World War,
but they were no doubt fairly conventional and academic as all his work would be for
the next few years.

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When the first set of murals was finished at Emmahof, Count Khuen passed Mucha on to
his brother Count Egon, who lived in the ancestral castle of Gandegg in the Tyrol, who
in turn sent Mucha off for a period of study in Munich.
After Bavaria was raised to the dignity of a kingdom early in the 19th century, King Ludwig
determined that his capital should become the cultural capital of central and Germanspeaking Europe. The public buildings he commissioned in Neoclassical and NeoRenaissance style made his desire clear to the world that Munich be seen as the Athens
or the Florence of the North.
By the end of the century, Munich was regarded by many as a serious alternative to Paris.
Amongst the aspiring artists who were attracted to Munich were Lovis Corinth, Wassily
Kandinsky, Alexei von Jawlensky, Paul Klee, and Giorgio de Chirico. Even the young
Picasso briefly considered going to Munich in preference to Paris.
The mid 1880s was perhaps not the most propitious time to arrive. The Munich Secession
which opened up a more liberal and cosmopolitan phase in the local art scene, was
seven years in the future. Munich was still dominated by such conservative figures as the
portraitist Franz von Lenbach and the history painter Karl Theodor von Piloty, though
PilotyÊs vast and bombastic canvas of Thusnelda in the Triumphal Procession of
Germanicus (which had been acquired by the Neue Pinakothek in 1874) may have
encouraged MuchaÊs budding ambition to paint big patriotic pictures.
After the completion of a second set of murals at Emmahof, Count Khuen generously
offered Mucha the choice of further study in either Rome or Paris.
Wisely and fatefully his choice fell upon Paris. The timing could hardly have been
better. 1888 was a momentous year in the early history of modern art. Fully recovered
from the traumas of the Franco-Prussian War and the bloody massacres of the
Commune, Paris was in full glory and the undisputed culture and pleasure capital of
the Western world.
Preparations were in hand for the forthcoming Exposition Universelle of 1889 and EiffelÊs
tower was rising on the city horizon. Gauguin in Brittany and Van Gogh in Arles were
each on the brink of significant breakthroughs in their art. Together with their fellow Post
Impressionists they were laying the foundations for much of what would happen in
Western art over the following half century.
Mucha entered the Académie Julian where he met Sérusier, Vuillard, Bonnard, Denis, and
other future members of the Nabis group. At the end of the summer, Sérusier returned in
triumph with the Talisman, a tiny painting on a cigar box lid that he had made in Brittany
under GauguinÊs instruction.

Exposition Universelle Internationale
de St Louis (États-Unis), 1903.
Colour lithograph, 101 x 72.3 cm.
Collection of Jean-Louis Lamot, Brussels.

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Ostensibly a landscape, it was perhaps the most radically abstracted painting of the 19th
century. Though Mucha was later on friendly terms with Gauguin and even shared his
studio with him for a while in 1893 (when he took a hilarious photograph of the trouserless Gauguin playing his harmonium), there is no indication that he was ever very
interested in the more radical innovations of the Post Impressionists or even of the older
Impressionists. In this, he was perhaps fairly typical of the multitude of students who had
flocked to Paris and to the Académie Julian in particular, from all over the world. His
fellow student Maurice Denis wrote „Even the boldest students knew next to nothing about
Impressionism. They admired Bastien-Lepage, spoke with respect of Puvis de Chavannes
(although secretly doubting whether he could draw), discussed Péladan and Wagner,
read superficial decadent literature and got excited about mysticism, the Kabbalah, and
the Chaldean calendar.‰
Though MuchaÊs technique and style remained essentially academic well into the
1890s, he was profoundly influenced by the Symbolist movement and the kind of
mysticism that held sway in literary and artistic circles in Paris in the second half of
the 1880s. The Symbolists were reacting against the materialist and positivist
philosophies that had dominated the mid-19 th century and that had found expression
in the Realist movement and in Impressionism, with its devotion to the objective
recording of sensory perception. The year 1884 had brought a sea of change in the
cultural atmosphere of Paris and the belated recognition of the three older French
Symbolist painters, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, and Odilon Redon.
After years of being dismissed as clumsy and anachronistic, Puvis triumphed at the Salon
with his mysterious and hieratic „Bois Sacré‰, a painting that spawned a thousand
imitations. Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon were introduced to a wider public
through the somewhat sensational and lurid descriptions of their works in Joris-Karl
HuysmansÊ novel Against Nature.

Cover of L’Habitation pratique
(April 1910), 1903.
Lithograph, 34.3 x 31.8 cm.
Collection of Victor Arwas, London.

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This scandalous novel became a cult book and was regarded as a manifesto of
decadent fin-de-siècle taste. The Swedish playwright August Strindberg noted the
abruptness of the change. On a visit to Paris in 1883 he noted that Bastien-Lepage and
Manet were the artists most admired in advanced circles, but two years later „in the
midst of the last spasms of naturalism, one name was pronounced by all with
admiration: that of Puvis de Chavannes‰. The stylised flatness of PuvisÊ murals with their
heavily contoured forms and the precious decorative quality of MoreauÊs paintings (what
Moreau called „la richesse nécessaire‰) were important components of MuchaÊs mature
style and he undoubtedly absorbed many of the attitudes and ideas of the Symbolist
movement. As his son Jiri put it, „I could see in my father to what extent this mixture of
theosophy, occultism, and mysticism captivated its adherents, and yet Father never
declared himself to be a Symbolist and would probably have been very surprised by
such a classification.‰

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At the end of 1889, Count Khuen, suddenly and without warning terminated his financial
support of Mucha. Mucha had to abandon his studies at the Academie Colarossi (to
which he had transferred in 1889) and endured a period of penury before he began to
earn a modest living as an illustrator in the early 1890s.
What finally liberated Mucha from the strait-jacket of his academic style and unleashed
his native talent and inventiveness was the arrival of the Art Nouveau style in the mid1890s. After germinating for a decade or more in Britain, Art Nouveau finally appeared
in its fully developed form in Brussels in 1892 in the designs of Victor Horta for the
Maison Tassel.
Here we see the exuberant whiplash line and the bold use of metal and glass in
organically unified designs inspired by natural forms.
Like some kind of bacillus, Art Nouveau spread from place to place, often through the pages
of art magazines, newly enriched with photographic illustrations and colour lithography.
It mutated as it went, taking on local colour and transforming itself into something almost
totally different by the time it reached such far-flung places as Glasgow, Barcelona, and
Vienna and eventually making appearances in such exotic and unlikely places as
Moscow, Tunis, and Chicago.
The various names coined for the style as it made its triumphal progress, Art Nouveau,
Liberty Style, Jugendstil, Secession Style, Arte Joven etc, all seem to emphasise its
newness and its break with the past – most specifically with the musty historicism of the
mid-19th century.
In fact Art Nouveau itself drew upon a myriad of earlier and exotic styles – Japanese,
Celtic, Islamic, Gothic, Baroque, and Rococo amongst many others. As a decorative
style it was greeted with unprecedented enthusiasm but also a fair amount of scepticism
and hostility.
It was frequently seen as something alien, imported from elsewhere. In Germany, it was
denounced as the „Belgian tape-worm style‰. The traditional enemies, France and Britain,
tended to blame each other, with the British taking up the French term „Art Nouveau‰ and
the French often using the „franglais‰ of „le Modern Style‰.
In Paris it was noted that the two most important promoters of the style in the city, Siegfried
Bing at the shop „LÊArt Nouveau‰ and Julius Meier-Graefe at „La Maison Moderne‰ were
both German Jews. The critic Arsène Alexandre commented sourly, „All this reeks of the
depraved Englishman, the drug-addicted Jewess, or the cunning Belgian, or a charming
mixture of these three poisons.‰

Portrait of Maruška, 1903.
Gouache on cartboard,
50.7 x 32.1 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague.
Friendship, 1904.
Full-colour reproduction in The New
York Daily News, 48 x 33.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 96)
Lefèvre-Utile Gaufrette Vanille
Packaging (detail), 1900.
Mixed media.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 97)

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(„Tout cela sent lÊAnglais vicieux, la Juive morphinomane, ou le Belge roublard, ou une
agréable salade de ces trois poisons.‰)
It is unlikely to have passed Alexandre by that the two most characteristic Parisian
examples of the style were the metro entrances of Hector Guimard and the posters of the
Czech Mucha.
The style burst upon Paris in 1895 with GuimardÊs design for the apartment block known
as the Castel Beranger, the opening of Siegfried BingÊs emporium and in the very first
days of the year with the appearance on the streets of Paris of MuchaÊs poster for Sarah
Bernhardt in the role of Gismonda.
The huge success of this poster turned Mucha overnight into one of the stars of
the Parisian artistic firmament. Mucha was already thirty-four years old with a
considerable body of work behind him, and the suddenness and completeness of his
transformation seem remarkable.
According to Jiri Mucha, „From his first day in Paris until Christmas 1894, there
was no change in his work other than a growing skill and an increased tendency towards
Symbolism. His style was born suddenly, overnight, ready-made without
any previous development.‰ A similarly sudden and complete transformation can be seen
in the work of the artist Gustav Klimt who, three years later and at the age of thirty-five,
responded to the arrival of Art Nouveau in Vienna.
In MuchaÊs case (though the stylistic change was the result not only of his discovery
of Art Nouveau, but also of his response to the very special demands of the relatively
new art form of the poster), it was the discovery of the printing technique of
lithography in 1798 by the Bavarian Alois Senefelder that enabled the 19 th-century
development of the poster as an art form. Senefelder claimed that this momentous
discovery was made by accident when he used a greasy pencil to jot down a laundry
list for his mother on a slab of stone.
He realised that when greasy ink was washed across the stone, it would stick to the
crayon marks and not to the rest of the stone. It was a technique with infinite
possibilities, for reproducing the effects of drawing or even painting and had the
great advantage that virtually limitless numbers of copies could be produced
extremely cheaply.

Madonna of the Lilies, 1905.
Distemper on canvas, 247 x 182 cm.
National Czech & Slovak Museum &
Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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The development of the poster went hand in hand in the last decades of the 19th century
with the increasingly sophisticated use of colour techniques and the influence of
Japanese woodblock prints. These prints flooded the West in ever increasing quantities
from 1853 when the United States Navy forced Japan to open up to international trade.

I. Blessed Are the Meek: For They Shall Inherit the Earth, 1906.
Watercolour and gouache, 43.5 x 30.5 cm.
Moravian Gallery, Brno.

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II. Blessed Are the Pure of Heart: For They Shall See God, 1906.
Watercolour and gouache, 43.5 x 30.5 cm.
Moravian Gallery, Brno.

III. Blessed Are They That Mourn: For They Shall Be Comforted, 1906.
Watercolour and gouache, 43.5 x 30.5 cm.
Moravian Gallery, Brno.

IV. Blessed Are the Merciful: For They Shall Obtain Mercy, 1906.
Watercolour and gouache, 43.5 x 30.5 cm.
Moravian Gallery, Brno.

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Though the technique of woodblock printing is quite different in principle from lithography, it is
similar in that a separate block or plate is needed for each colour. The ingenuity of the Japanese
artists in using a limited number of colours to create rich and varied effects demonstrated to
Western artists how the limitations of colour lithography could be turned to their advantage.
The Japanese also showed how text and image could be integrated into a satisfyingly
unified whole.
The first great master of the Parisian poster was Jules Cheret. Dubbed the „Watteau of the
streets‰, he developed a highly distinctive style that looked back to 18th-century painters
such as Watteau, Tiepolo, and Fragonard.
At the same time, his use of flat abstracted forms and bright colours and his depiction of
pleasure-loving Belle Époque Parisiennes seemed thoroughly modern. An important
milestone in the history of the poster was the appearance of Henri de Toulouse-LautrecÊs
startling poster for the cabaret singer Aristide Bruant in 1892.
With its large areas of bright, solid colour, the Bruant poster caught every eye from across
the widest squares and boulevards and became the talk of Paris. The periodical „La Vie
Parisienne‰ demanded rhetorically, „Who will rid us of this picture of Aristide Bruant? You
cannot move a step without being confronted with it. Bruant is supposed to be an artist;
why, then, does he put himself up on the walls besides the gas lamps and other
advertisements? DoesnÊt he object to neighbours like these?‰
If LautrecÊs bold poster of Bruant outraged as many as it delighted, MuchaÊs exquisitely
refined and fin-de-siècle poster of Sarah Bernhardt as Gismonda finally convinced the
Parisian public that posters could be great art.
MuchaÊs encounter with the great actress Sarah Bernhardt was another happy coincidence that was to transform his life and his career. In the mid-1890s, Bernhardt was
at the very pinnacle of a glorious career that dated back to the 1860s.
Thanks to railways, steamships, mass circulation newspapers, and later to moving film
and gramophone records, and above all to her skilful manipulation of these new
possibilities, Bernhardt enjoyed world fame beyond that of any earlier performing artist.
Like the singer Madonna in our own day, she was intensely aware of the importance of
her image and of the need to keep it fresh and changing.

V. Blessed Are They That Are
Persecuted for Righteousness Sake:
For Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven,
1906.
Watercolour and gouache,
43.5 x 30.5 cm.
Moravian Gallery, Brno.

Her relationship with Mucha in the 1890s was a symbiotic one of enormous benefit to
both. Countless portraits of Sarah Bernhardt were made over her long career, beginning
with the touching series of daguerreotypes of the youthful Sarah, made by the famous
photographer Nadar in the 1860s.

VI. Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit: For
Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven, 1906.
Watercolour and gouache,
43.5 x 30.5 cm.
Moravian Gallery, Brno.

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BernhardtÊs friend and admirer William Graham Robertson was convinced that no portrait
could capture her. „This strange dream-beauty was impossible to transfer to canvas; no
portrait of her holds even the shadow of it.‰ He dismisses Bastien-LepageÊs portrait as
„little more than a caricature‰ and goes on to damn most of the others. „Georges ClairinÊs
immense canvas, full of frills, flounces, fringes, dogs, and cushions, like an odd lot at a
jumble sale, is of no value as a likeness; GandaraÊs portrait is a clever study of a pink
dress, but Sarah is not inside it. She looked so paintable, yet no one could paint her.‰
Oddly, Robertson fails even to mention MuchaÊs posters.
They were not accurate likenesses and were not intended as such (Bernhardt was, after
all fifty years old when the first of them was made). Nevertheless they have done more
to preserve the poetry and beauty of her aura for posterity than any other image.
Bernhardt took an intense interest in art. She herself was a gifted amateur sculptress
described by George Bernard Shaw as „very clever with her fingers‰. Though she was
uninterested in the more advanced tendencies in the French art of her time, she greatly
admired the English Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones and went to visit him in
his studio when she was in London.
Unfortunately her desire to have him make her portrait came to nothing. Burne-JonesÊ
delightfully-expressed mock terror at meeting the Divine Sarah in letters to William Graham
Robertson convey something of the awed admiration with which she was regarded.
„Will you give the enclosed to the Supreme and Infinitely Glorious One, kneeling as you
give it.
She is not to dream of troubling to answer. Who am I, great powers, that she should take
a momentÊs trouble!‰
„Yes, Wednesday will do lovely and IÊll be with you at 7, and She has but to fix her own
time about Briar Rose and it shall be my time and everybody elseÊs time.‰
„Tell me how long She stays and how long is to be seen and worshipped in this new
play – for go I must, though I shall be ill for a week after it.‰
„Even if I were free tomorrow I donÊt think I could meet Her at lunch. – I cannot speak
French even to a waiter and what could I say to her?‰

A Christmas Inspiration,
Burr McIntosh Monthly, 1907.
Colour lithograph, 31 x 18.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.

104

„No, come with Her and gently interpret what She says to me – and I will gape openmouthed and be quite happy. And at the last moment let Her change Her mind and alter
the day or hour. On no account is She to be bored or tired but to have everything Her
own lovely way and at a minuteÊs notice.‰

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The story of how Mucha came to make his great breakthrough with his poster of
Gismonda as related by the artist himself, has the flavour of an old-fashioned
Hollywood biopic.
On the morning of Christmas Day 1894, Mucha turned up at LemercierÊs printing shop
in the Rue de Seine on an errand to help an artist friend who had gone away over the
holiday period. While he was there Sarah Bernhardt phoned to say that she needed a
poster for her new play Gismonda, one of a series written to showcase her histrionic
talents by the popular playwright Victorien Sardou (two of which, „Tosca‰ and „Fedora‰,
have survived in operatic settings by Puccini and Giordano). The poster was needed by
New YearÊs Eve. With little hope of finding another artist at such short notice over the
Christmas period, the manager, a certain M. de Brunhoff, turned in desperation to Mucha
and persuaded him to attend a performance that very night. The impoverished Mucha
had no suitable clothes for such a glamorous occasion. „What was I to do? I had no
tails. I managed to hire a suitable tail-coat for ten francs, but as none of the trousers fit, I
decided to wear the ordinary black trousers I wore all the time. At night all cows are
black, I told myself. But that was not all. IÊd have to have a top hat.‰
He managed to borrow:
A very old one that must have dated back to the forties; it was like a battleship and on
the big side for me. The springs were all twisted and it wobbled when I put it on, so that
I had to steady it with a finger to keep it from falling over my eyes.
In this attire I turned up in the wings at the Théâtre de la Renaissance, with a
sketchbook and all the pencils I needed. Sarah was sublime, especially in the bit
where she goes to church on Easter Sunday to the sound of bells and Gregorian
chant. I sketched her dress, the golden flowers in her hair, the wide sleeves, and a
palm leaf in her hand.
All the time the top hat kept swaying on my head and, as soon as I started
drawing, it fell over my eyes. This made things very difficult because I couldnÊt see
the paper. But I was afraid to take the hat off as it was only lent and somebody
might steal it. A few steps away stood two very elegant gentlemen, highly amused
at my predicament.
I must have aroused their sympathy because one of them came to me and said, „Put your
hat on the chair here; IÊll guard it for you.‰

Jos. Triner’s Angelica Bitter Tonic, 1907.
Colour lithograph, 37.5 x 32.4 cm.
Collection of Robert Allan Haas,
Kansas City.

It was Sardou. After the theatre in a scene that seems pure Hollywood, Mucha went to
a café with de Brunoff and sketched his idea for the poster on a marble table top that
the café proprietor kept and later sold.

Woman with a Daisy (detail), 1900.
Printed uholstery fabric, 60 x 78.5 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection.
(pp. 108-109)

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The elongated format of the poster (influenced by a type of Japanese print that in turn
derives from Chinese scroll painting) necessitated the use of two lithographic stones. The
work was pushed through so rapidly that Mucha had no time for the finishing touches to
the lower half and the two halves failed to match up perfectly.
The end result was utterly different from the brasher posters produced by Cheret and
Lautrec. So bizarre did it seem with its unusual format, hieratic composition, stylised
detail, and its delicate and muted colours that the printer and the manager were
disconcerted and fully expected a disaster.
Luckily there was no time to commission another poster and, above all, the great Sarah
herself was enchanted. When Mucha went to see her in her dressing room, he reported
„My poster was up on the wall, Sarah was standing in front of it, unable to tear her eyes
away. When she saw me, she came and embraced me. In short, no disgrace, but
success, great success.‰
BernhardtÊs judgement was vindicated. When the poster appeared on the walls of Paris
in January 1895, it created a sensation. As Jerome Doucet wrote in the Revue Illustrée,
„This poster made all Paris familiar with MuchaÊs name from one day to the next⁄ This
poster, this white window, this mosaic on the wall, is a creation of the first order, which
has well deserved its triumph.‰
The poster was used in London as well and clearly made a profound impression on
the sculptor Alfred Gilbert, then at work on his grandiose and very fin-de-siècle
masterpiece, the tomb of the Duke of Clarence at Windsor Castle. The exquisite
polychrome bronze statuettes that adorn the tomb show more than a passing
resemblance to Gismonda.

Native American Woman with Flowers
and Feathers, 1905.
Pencil, watercolour, and tempera on
cardboard, 63 x 48 cm.
Západoèeská Galerie, Plzeò.
Leslie Carter, 1908.
Colour lithograph, 209.5 x 78.2 cm.
The Mucha Trust Collection. (p. 112)
Maude Adams as Joan of Arc, 1909.
Oil on canvas, 208.9 x 76.2 cm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York. (p. 112)
Moravian Teachers’ Choir, 1911.
Colour lithograph, 106 x 77 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague. (p. 113)

110

The firm of Lemercier printed 4,000 copies of the poster for Sarah Bernhardt but tried to
hang on to some of this number for themselves. Bernhardt was forced to take legal action
to regain possession of the final 550 copies. The court records indicate that Mucha may
have taken a little poetic licence in his account of the rapid creation of his first
masterpiece and that the poster was probably not printed until the first days of the New
Year rather than on New YearÊs Eve as he claimed. Extraordinary though MuchaÊs story
was, even more fantastic versions circulated of his discovery by Sarah Bernhardt. One
version that must have galled this patriotic Czech, had him as a Gypsy violinist
encountered by Bernhardt on a tour of Hungary.
The Gismonda poster brought Mucha not only overnight fame but also financial security
in the form of a six-year contract to work for Sarah Bernhardt. A succession of striking
posters for La Dame aux Camélias, Lorenzaccio, La Samaritaine, Médée, Tosca, and
Hamlet appeared over the next four years.

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Bernhardt agreed to pay Mucha a monthly retainer of 3,000 francs, plus 1,500
francs for each new poster. (Jiri Mucha reckons that Bernhardt made at least
130,000 francs profit on sales of the Gismonda poster alone.) For this money,
Mucha was expected to oversee every visual aspect of BernhardtÊs theatre
productions and to provide designs for sets, costumes, and props, including, on
occasion, jewellery.
MuchaÊs long collaboration with Bernhardt gave him plenty of opportunity to observe her
closely, and he left a lengthy verbal description of her that is remarkable for its detailed
objectivity that tempers his very evident admiration.
Sarah had a low forehead which she was a little ashamed of and always carefully
concealed it with plenty of hair.
Her main object was to emphasise her eyes which were somewhat small in relation
to her cheeks and forehead. The shadow under her curls completely filled the
depression round her eyes and, with a few deft touches of mascara, eyes that a
moment before had been almost expressionless, acquired unexpected depth and the
proper dimensions.
In profile, her somewhat wide nose had an exceptionally fine line: its bridge forcefully
revealed her artistic independence and personality, a small bump on the ridge showed
her fighting qualities, while its interesting termination in a slightly turned-up tip indicated
vivid imagination and volatility. Long, narrow nostrils testified to her little-developed, and
therefore easily controlled, sensuality.
Her mouth was peculiarly remarkable; the lips were beautifully symmetrical with a clean
groove on the upper one; when compressed, they formed an almost straight line, only
slightly raised at the corners. In tragic parts she was able to keep them drooping for
several hours and convey a completely altered personality. Her lower lip was thrust
slightly forward and her firm chin, indicated an exceptionally resolute character.
She preferred to keep her beautiful, long neck covered, right up to the ears, particularly
in society, since the neck first gives away age in fine wrinkles which no cosmetics or
massage can remove. But on the stage, with artificial light and good make-up –
particularly later on in her fifties, when she came into her real beauty – her bare neck
and shoulders were magnificent.
The success of his work for Bernhardt brought Mucha numerous other commissions for
posters. Following in the footsteps of Cheret, Mucha created an instantly recognisable
ideal female type that he used to advertise everything from cigarettes and soap to beer
and bicycles. This type lies somewhere between the earthy gaiety of CheretÊs blond or

Journalism and Literature, The Literary
Digest, 1907. Colour lithograph,
30.4 x 22.8 cm.
Collection of Robert Allan Haas,
Kansas City.
Regional Exhibition at Ivanèice 1913,
1912.
Colour lithograph, 93 x 59 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague. (p. 116)
6th Sokol Festival, 1912.
Colour lithograph, 168.5 x 82.5 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague. (p. 117)

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red-headed good-time girls with their heavily corseted, hour-glass figures, the morbid
refinement and melancholy of the Pre-Raphaelite type, and the sinister allures of the finde-siècle femme fatale, combining elements of all three.
A superb and characteristic example is the poster for Job cigarettes.
An image of a young woman smoking was in itself a daring thing at a time when no
respectable woman would be seen smoking in public. As late as 1909 the ItalianGerman composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari wrote the charming opera „Il Segreto di
Susanna‰ concerning the misadventures of a young woman who attempts to hide from
her new husband the guilty secret that she smokes.
The physical type of the girl in the Job poster, with her strong chin and abundant hair
derives from the Pre-Raphaelite type created by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The pose with raised head and ecstatically parted lips and half-closed eyes is taken
directly from RossettiÊs painting Beata Beatrix, though Mucha has attempted to disguise
his theft by reversing the image.
There is something delightfully irreverent about the way Mucha has transformed
RossettiÊs visual Liebestod into a celebration of the momentary pleasure afforded by
a drag on a cigarette. The cheeky insouciance of the Job poster is all the more
telling in comparison with the morbid and portentous fusion of orgasm, conception,
and death in MunchÊs lithograph Madonna , which also derives from RossettiÊs
Beata Beatrix.
The most striking feature of the Job poster is the girlÊs tentacle-like hair that looks as
though it has a life of its own and might reach out to wrap itself round the neck of
any passing male. Mucha was one of many fin-de-siècle artists from Rossetti
onwards, who were fascinated by the erotic and the threatening aspects of
womenÊs hair.
The obsession with womenÊs hair reached epidemic proportions in the late 19th century.
This can be laid down partly to the fact that respectable women would no more dream
of letting their hair down in public than they would have of lighting up a cigarette, and
most men only saw womenÊs hair unleashed in moments of sexual intimacy.

Princess Hyacinthe, 1911.
Colour lithograph, 125.5 x 83.5 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague.

118

There is more than a hint of the „Fatale‰ in many of MuchaÊs images of women and his
son Jiri believed that Mucha was influenced by the fashionable misogyny of the fin-desiècle – in particular by the ideas of his friend August Strindberg. According to Jiri
Mucha, his father was wary of women and advised him, „If any woman comes near
you, kick her!‰

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The Introduction of the Slavonic Liturgy
“Praise God in Thy Native Tongue”,
1912.
Distemper on canvas, 610 x 810 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague.

120

The Slavs in Their Original Homeland
“Between the Knout of the Turcs and
the Sword of the Goths”, 1912.
Distemper on canvas, 610 x 810 cm.
Mucha Museum, Prague.

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Throughout the late 1890s, Mucha lavished his prodigious powers of invention on the
decorative arts. He designed everything from furniture and cutlery to shop fronts,
jewellery, and biscuit tins. No task seemed too humble for him to undertake. The
organic and curvilinear forms of his style lent themselves particularly well to objects
made in metal.
Mucha built up a close working relationship with the jeweller Georges Fouquet,
producing numerous designs for brooches and pendants that usually incorporated the
typical Mucha girl with her tendrilling hair. The most famous Mucha/Fouquet
collaboration was for a bracelet made for Sarah Bernhardt in the form of a
bejewelled snake that coiled up her arm in order (according to Jiri Mucha) to disguise
her arthritic wrist.
This bracelet not only survives but can be seen as an appropriately sinister ornament in
MuchaÊs poster of Bernhardt in the role of Medea. In 1900, Mucha designed a shopfront for Fouquet that was situated opposite MaximÊs, that other temple of Belle Époq