June 20–October 6, 2019
Alphonse Mucha, born in Moravia, came to Paris in 1887. Over the next 8 years, he emerged from obscurity to become the most celebrated graphic designer of the Art Nouveau movement. His intricate designs and gorgeous subjects were so popular that he produced pattern books for fellow designers and students, and his publishers repurposed his advertisements for hundreds of other products.
“I predict you will be famous”
“I predict you will be famous”
But his style and status all started when he met the legendary Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress of her day. Mucha’s first poster for her not only launched his graphic design career, but elevated her fame, as the public buzz for the image was completely unprecedented.
From that moment on, Mucha used alluring, strong women to advertise everything from cookies to bicycles, alcohol to rolling papers. These women were part of a budding 20th-Century world wherein they had newfound independence and social agency. Through them, Mucha changed the world of advertising and brought Art Nouveau to the streets.
This collection comes to Poster House through a generous loan from the Richard Fuxa Foundation, which houses the most complete collection of Alphonse Mucha and is one of the preeminent supporters of Czech heritage and art.
Monaco Monte-Carlo, 1897
Étoile du Matin from The Stars series, 1902
La Dame aux Camélias, 1896
Cycles Perfecta, 1902
Été from The Seasons series, 1896
L'Émeraude from The Precious Stones series, 1900
Born in 1860, in what today is the Czech Republic, Alphonse Maria Mucha knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist. Expelled from school due to poor grades and rejected from a local art academy, he left his home country at 19 to become a scene painter in Vienna. By 22, he had caught the eye of a Count, who funded his art education in Munich and Paris, ultimately subsidizing his living expenses and lifestyle. When the Count withdrew his support in 1889, Mucha finally had to find a way to subsist as an artist on his own, taking commissions as an illustrator from various publishers of books and periodicals.
On December 26, 1894, Mucha’s life changed forever—he was asked to create a last-minute poster for Sarah Bernhardt. The subsequent poster rocked the Parisian advertising world, turning him into a legend overnight. For the next nine years he was one of the most celebrated artists in the world, with recognition in both Europe and America. Unsatisfied with being a mere commercial artist, Mucha decided in 1904 to move to America to be a portrait painter.
From there, his career never quite recovered—he taught at the Art Institute in Chicago, married a woman 22 years his junior, and returned to Bohemia to begin his magnum opus, the Slav Epic painting series celebrating the Czech people. That painting series would dominate the rest of his life. He was arrested by the Gestapo in March of 1939, primarily for his affiliation with the Masons, and would die of pneumonia a few months later.
October 17, 2019–January 5, 2020
October 17, 2019–February 11, 2020