Mucha Museum and the Master of Art Nouveau
The Mucha Museum in Prague is a small museum in honor of a great artist. Reproductions of Mucha’s works can be found in almost all souvenir shops in the centre of Prague: posters, cups, calendars and fridge magnets all designed by Alphonse Mucha, the master of the Art Nouveau.
Mucha (1860-1939) was an artist who successfully combined art and commerce. His style is clearly recognizable. He used soft pastel colours in most of his works and emphasized motifs from nature and flowing shapes. His ‘trademark’ was elegant women in graceful robes.
His most famous poster depicts the French actress Sarah Bernardt as Gismonde, advertising the play in which she played the lead role. The Mucha Museum is divided into six sections: decorative panels, Parisian posters, documents décoratifs, Czech posters, paintings and studio, Drawing and pastels.
Mucha Museum in Prague
The Mucha Museum gives an overview of the works of Alfons Mucha (ch is pronounced as ch in the Scottish word loch). The collection consists of some hundred posters including ‘Gismonde’. You will also see sketches, drawings, illustrations for books, designs for stamps and oil paintings. There is a replica of his Paris studio, with original furniture. Finally, watch a half-hour video about Mucha’s work and life.
Decorative Panels and Advertising Posters in Mucha Museum
The decorative panels are Mucha’s best-known and most popular works. He believed that beautiful works of art would improve the quality of life. His inexpensive panels could decorate even the modest of homes because he mass produces them by using lithography as printing technique.
Mucha designed several series of decorative panels including Flowers, the Seasons and the Zodiac. Subtle and in soft pastel shades are ‘éveil du matin’, ‘éclat du jour’, ‘réverie du soir’ and ‘repos de la nuit’, which together form one panel entitled: the Four Parts of the Day. Mucha made advertising posters for JOB cigarette papers: a woman with an exceptional head of hair, a cigarette in her hand and smoke curling around her head. She is outlined against a circular background with the name of the company above it.
How did Mucha become famous?
When in Paris on Christmas Eve 1894, Mucha was correcting proofs at a friend’s printing works, Sarah Bernardt called the printer, Lemercier, with an immediate demand for a new poster for her production of ‘Gismonde’. As all regular artists were on holiday, Lemercier turned to Mucha, because a demand from ‘la grande dame’ could not be ignored. She was so pleased with the poster that she offered Mucha a six-year contract to produce stage and costume designs as well as more posters.
Mucha’s posters were so popular that they were stolen en masse when they were on walls and advertising boards in the streets of Paris.
What makes the ‘Gismonde’ poster special?
Mucha approached his subject in a completely different and unique way. Inspired by Japanese art, he opted for an elongated poster format and emphasized refined details. Sarah Bernardt is depicted in the robes of the character she plays, quite a novelty in those days. Thirdly, he used pastel colours instead of bright colours as was usual in posters for the theatres. His Gismonde poster was a resounding success and the start of a large number of commercial assignments as an illustrator and also as a designer of sets, costumes and jewelry for the productions of Sarah Bernardt’s theater productions.
Mucha and the Slav Epic
The Slav Epic is an important work of Mucha but not exhibited in the Mucha Museum. Between 1912 and 1928, Mucha painted a series of twenty impressive paintings inspired by Slav mythology and the history of the Czech people. Today, it is still unclear where the work of art will eventually be exhibited. Both Prague and Moravsky Krumlov (a city in South Moravia) claim the work to be theirs. Only when Prague has a suitable exhibition space for the paintings, will the work return to Prague. At present, the Slav Epic is on display in the castle of Moravsky Krumlov. It will remain there for the next few years until the dispute has been resolved.
Alfons Mucha 1860 – 1939
Mucha was one of the first to be arrested by the Gestapo after the Munich betrayal and subsequent German invasion of Czechoslovakia. Although he was allowed to go home after interrogation, his mind was broken and his health deteriorated. He died of pneumonia on July 14, 1939, ten days before his 79th birthday. He is buried in Vysehrad cemetery in Prague.
How to get there
The Mucha Museum is located in a side street off na Prikope, a busy shopping street close to Wenceslas Square.
Address: Mucha Museum, Panska 7, Nove Mesto, Prague
Opening hours: daily 10 am-6pm.
Photos wiki commons