Gismonda marks an important moment in the career of Czech illustrator, Alphonse Mucha. Coming as it did in 1894, it was an early entry into a style that would ultimately become the main signature of his career.
The design used in Gimonda is elaborate and ambitious, surprisingly so for someone trying out a new stylistic approach. Perhaps Mucha was attempting to leave a great impact with this illustration, potentially leading to more patrons requesting similar commissions. We find here many of the key elements found within Mucha’s advertising posters with beautifully styled lettering to announce the show, decorative features on the female model and also some highly decorative touches across the rest of the background. The star featured here was Sarah Bernhardt, a famous actress who would play a leading role within this artist's career.
Gismonda is a comedy written by Victorien Sardou. A new production was due to be unveiled for the first time in Paris in early 1895 and the company behind this chose to call on the services of Alphonse Mucha in order to promote it through of a number of lithograph posters. In the late 19th century we were still many years from the internet or even the use of television and so print media was very important in promoting anything and everything. There was a big amount of potential work for any illustrators that could put their case forward and Mucha was one of the first to do it. Sarah Bernhardt, incidentally, was not just an actress within the play but also its director and so she might have had some influence on who they decided to use for this commissioned artwork.
The artist would carefully craft this portrait in order to guide our understanding of the lead character role in the theatre show. This particular piece can be found in the collection of Italia Liberty in Rimini, Italy who also host work from a number of other famous European illustrators. Additionally, you will find some historic photographs here as well which can provide an alternative view of life from past centuries. Their overall display is particularly focused on around the mid 19th to early 20th century and so much of their other items fit in well with the Mucha artworks that they own. La Gerbe by Henri Matisse is one of their standout pieces, there are a number of sculptures by Mario Mirko Vucetich and these also have a number of very early postcards which provides a varied display with which to spend a few hours.
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.