Wowzers! It’s Day FOURTEEN. It’s officially been two weeks since I’ve started this insane yearlong art project. Thanks to all of you who have supported/encouraged and joined me on this already challenging journey. Today (and last night) was especially formidable because of the specific art style I had to emulate. Art Nouveau! I love this art style. Since I was in high school I always wanted to get various art nouveau style tattoos all over my body. It never really happened. Today I celebrate one of the first art nouveau artists on my list…(even though Mucha didn’t like to include him self into this “movement” and argued art was eternal and never “nouveau”.)
Alfons Maria Mucha 24 July 1860 – Prague, 14 July 1939), often known in English and French as Alphonse Mucha, was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, known best for his distinct style. He produced many paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs.
Alphonse Maria Mucha was born in the town of Ivančice, Moravia (the present Czech Republic). Although his singing abilities allowed him to continue his education through high school in the Moravian capital of Brno, drawing had been his main hobby since childhood. He worked at decorative painting jobs in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery. In 1879, he relocated to Vienna to work for a major Viennese theatrical design company, while informally augmenting his artistic education. When a fire destroyed his employer’s business during 1881 he returned to Moravia, to do freelance decorative and portrait painting. Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov hired Mucha to decorate Hrušovany Emmahof Castle with murals, and was impressed enough that he agreed to sponsor Mucha’s formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.
Mucha moved to Paris in 1887, and continued his studies at Académie Julian and Académie Colarossi. In addition to his studies, he worked at producing magazine and advertising illustrations. About Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to go into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Paris, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on 1 January 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou was posted in the city, where it attracted much attention. Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she began a six-year contract with Mucha.
Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially The Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau (French for “new art”). Mucha’s works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors. Mucha’s style was given international exposure by the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, of which Mucha said, “I think [the Exposition Universelle] made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts.” He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated with decorating the Austrian Pavilion. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. The Art Nouveau style however, was one that Mucha attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more; hence his frustration at the fame he gained by his commercial art, when he most wanted to concentrate on more artistic projects.
Read more of his biography here.
I decided to start on this painting last night since I had finished the last two paintings relatively sooner than usual. I
also saw that Mucha was my artist for today and had a miniature freak-out. I knew I was capable of painting something, but it was another good example of desiring to do an extraordinary job. This type of painting takes patience, smart color choices, skill, determination and did I mention patience? There were times while I was painting where I forgot to breathe! The few times where I walked away from painting, all I could see in my mind were colors I wanted to add, areas I wanted to highlight and parts that needed more detailing. There were also a fair amount of, “God DAMNITs” that were said aloud.
All in all I thought it was a success. I feel like if I had more time to spend on this painting I could have perfected the details, paint flow etc. I’m pretty sure I captured the style pretty well. Alphonse, you are a truly talented man! Thanks for sharing your talents with me today and I’m sure that I learned enough to be even better tomorrow!