Buy Art Prints Now
* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Alphonse Mucha had planned a series of paintings to capture the history of the Slavic people for many years until finally he was able to obtain the financial support required to make this dream a reality. Petr Chelcicky at Vodnany would be the twelfth of twenty within the Slav Epic series.
Alphonse Mucha completed this painting in 1918, by which time a good number of this series had already been completed. The landscape format of this piece measures over six metres in width and around four metres in height. We find a combination of figurative work and landscape art together in one momentous display. Petr Chelcicky at Vodnany follows a similar approach to the last few items in this series, in terms of capturing honest depictions in a way that delivered a real sense of the past, and without any of the usual photoshopping of history in order to concentrate only on more positive themes. Up to this point the series initially was about the Slavs securing their own lands and then starting to work on developing their own society, but here we have started to fall back into the themes of war and protection as we enter the 15th century.
Petr of Chelčice was someone who was vehemently opposed to war and here we find him attending to the dead and wounded. He carries the Bible under his arm as he wanders around dressed in a modest black coat. He urges those who survived to avoid seeking vengeance, and wants to encourage a more tolerant and understanding society, where different nations can have more healthy relationships with each other. Clearly Mucha is very much on his side here, and allows him to become the main figure and title of this painting. There is a subtle element to this scene, where religion is not being rejected, but merely the use of it to promote war. In painting the horrors of this scenario, the artist is clearly siding with Petr and was perhaps influenced by the onset of WWI at the same time of this painting. We find war themes throughout this series of paintings, sometimes putting the Slavs in a good light, but in other cases simply trying to educate us about the downsides of armed conflict, without such a national or racial bias.
The painting itself as many victims of the conflict strewn around in the foreground, either lying in or in white sheets. Several friends and family comfort them in grief and anxiety, whilst others look on in prayer. Plumes of smoke dirty the air in the distance, perhaps signifying the destruction of villages as well as indicating that this is the aftermath of some very serious events. One can almost see the work of the French Romanticists within this highly emotional artwork, even though Mucha himself normally worked in a distinctly modern style in his more famous illustrative artworks. For example, the likes of Delacroix and Gericault would often deliver battle scenes such as this, but several centuries before the arrival of this highly skilled Czech painter and illustrator.