Famous Czech artist Alphonse Mucha produced paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards and designs during a long and distinguished career which left behind a large and technically impressive oeuvre which specialised in female portraiture within the style of Art Nouveau.
He was a commercial success throughout most of his life, living in the vibrant city of Paris over an extended period and taking advantage of the healthy theatre scene which offered him commissioned advertisement posters. Sarah Bernhadt was one of the most prominent actresses at the time and she features in a number of his figurative illustrations, often in character. Whilst most regard him as a painter, first and foremost, he was essentially a highly skilled commercial graphic designer who also became involved in a number of other mediums such as decorative panels, jewellery and stained glass windows. This breath of work is comparable to artists from the Pre-Raphaelites (Millais, Burne-Jones, Holman Hunt, Rossetti) and Arts and Crafts movements (Morris) in the UK, who similarly felt a strong desire to use their skills in a variety of different disciplines. Female portraiture was also key to much of their work, as well the addition of floral patterns in many cases.
The true paintings from his career would actually arrive later on, once he had returned to the Austrian Empire. It was here that he set about creating what was to become his pinnacle as an artist - a series of huge artworks that together told the story of his own people. The Slav Epic remains on display in Brno and is amongst the most significant historical series of paintings from any artist in 20th century Europe. Each and every component of this collection of paintings is uplifting, breathtaking even, but its importance to the slavic culture could never be overestimated. This technically supreme artist would receive several notable awards during his lifetime, including the Legion of Honor (France) and Knight of the Order of Franz Joseph I (Austria). His style can be considered unique, becoming the spearhead of the Art Nouveau movement which would not have existed without him.
Mucha's devotion to his people brought him into direct conflict with the German Third Reich which had invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. They set about persecuting the slavic race and immediately took on Mucha who they saw as a figurehead of resistance. Their treatment of him impacted his health considerably and he soon passed away. For many years his work was downplayed by the ruling powers, even after the end of the war, but eventually his career was to return to prominence. Currently he is as famous as he ever has been, boosted by a number of well-received exhibitions that have toured around Europe and beyond. His illustrative style is popular today, as is his devotion to the female figurative form. Despite this, he had actually been quoted on several occasions rejecting the Art Nouveau movement and prefering to have his oeuvre left relatively unlabelled.
Browse through a collection of the most famous paintings from this Art Nouveau master, listed through this section and categorised by their original titles. All the feminine portraits here made use of Mucha's exceptional illustrative skills, allowing him to add fine details and charming flourishes in and around the attractive models who adorned each artwork. Some of those featured here were as part of a series, with Mucha covering themes such as seasons and times of the day. Moon and Stars also brings together four separate paintings which the artist planned to display together. Those who particularly like the style of this artist should also consider purchasing one of the many print reproductions that are available from his career, via a number of online retailers.
There was a commercial purpose for many of these paintings too, with Job being used as a cigarette advertisement. Another was used for a biscuit tin cover, and many more as commissioned exhibition posters and so on. The Art Nouveau movement established itself as one of the more significant influences in the 20th century and Mucha is seen as the biggest contributor to it, alongside other masters like Gustav Klimt, Aubrey Beardsley and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The popularity of these artists has led to a huge demand for access to their work, be it exhibitions of their work or purchases for private collections. The paintings featured in this section are amongst the best of those, and there are now several high profile collectors of Alphonse Mucha original paintings, illustrations and pictures.
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.