The Legend of Mucha
The year was 1894, around Christmas in Paris.
Alphonse Mucha was toiling away in Lemercier’s printing workshop, correcting proofs as a favor for a friend. The internationally famed actress Sarah Bernhardt phoned the manager demanding a new poster for her stage production by New Year’s Eve. All the regular Lemercier artists were away for the holidays, so the manager turned to Mucha in desperation. Despite having no experience with designing posters, Mucha eagerly accepted the task.
When the manager returned on December 30 to see Mucha’s finished work, he was absolutely horrified.
To their amazement, La Divine Sarah absolutely loved it.
On New Year’s morning, Mucha’s Gismonda posters were up all across Paris. Mucha had gone from an obscure illustrator to an overnight sensation.
Who, exactly, is Alphonse Mucha?
Chances are you’ve seen his style before.
Google Doodle Celebrating Alphonse Mucha’s 150th Birthday
Despite his incredible success and fame in Paris, he was actually a Czech artist, born in 1860 next to the local jail of a Moravian town. Only through a series of fortunate events and chance encounters did he manage to make it to Paris, the city of elegance and sophistication.
The Gismonda poster was completely novel in all aspects of design, and it essentially launched Art Nouveau into momentum. Within a week, Mucha became the most demanded commercial artist in Paris. In fact, the French liked it so much, for a few years Art Nouveau was simply referred to as “Style Mucha“.
The posters were so desired by collectors that many of them went to great lengths to obtain them, either by bribing the bill stickers or simply sneaking out at night to cut them down from the billboards. Bernhardt was so thrilled with the publicity that she immediately offered him a six-year contract as a designer (their business partnership eventually turned into an unlikely friendship).
Mucha continued to enjoy incredible fame during his time in Paris, but by the time of his death he had faded back into obscurity. Thanks to his son, Mucha’s art gained renewed interest in the 1960s, and his works became the face of Art Nouveau.
The Inspiration Behind the Post
I was glancing at Couleur Nature’s Dahlia collection, inspired by Art Nouveau, when I decided to dig a little into the story of Mucha.
The elements of Art Nouveau (French for new art) are all there in the pattern–the curving lines of the foliage and the writhing vines in the background. Brown and blue is an uncommon color combination, but Dahlia and Mucha make beautiful use of it. What sets it apart from most of the other Couleur Nature collections are the subdued colors, but like Mucha’s art, that doesn’t stop it from making a statement.
So what’s your take on Art Nouveau? Is it just a thing of the past or do you still love it? (I know I do!)
If you’d like to see more of Mucha’s art, take a look at our Pinterest!
For more on Sarah Bernhardt (she was quite the fascinating lady), take a look at this article.
For more on Mucha after his “discovery” by Bernhardt, take a look at this article.