Young People's Theatre of Vienna Alphonse Mucha Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Mucha first produced this particular style of painting – the narrow rectangle filled with the figure of a tall, slender woman - in his poster Gismonda.

The story that accompanies this fact has Mucha being contacted as a last resort by a frantic Sarah Bernhardt, who was a French star of stage playing the title role in a production of Gismonda at the Lemercier Theatre.

It was Christmastime, and all of Lemercier's usual artists were at home with their families, unlike Mucha, who was still in his workshop toiling away at illustrations in order to make ends meet.

It's likely that no one expected Mucha, in answering this desperate plea, to revolutionise theatre posters and initiate a whole new style of art.

The innovative design was loved by Bernhadt, and even more so by the public, to the extent that they became somewhat of a collectable. People would offer money to bill stickers at theatres for them, and even steal posters in the dead of night by slicing them off their hoardings with razor blades.

Due to the success of this design, The Young People's Theatre of Vienna poster is one of several to employ it, along with La Dame aux Camélias (1896), Lorenzaccio (1896), La Samaritaine (1897), Médée (1898), La Tosca (1898) and Hamlet (1899) - all of which were commissioned straightaway by Bernhadt off the back of the Gismonda.

Despite undeniable similarities to his other designs, the Young Peoples Theatre of Vienna poster does deviate somewhat from a typical Mucha poster in that it's almost exclusively black and white, rather than in pastel shades, and is nearly approaching Art Deco in style.

At least, certainly more so than Mucha's usual florid, William Morris inspired figures.