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Alphonse Mucha (Czech, 1860-1939)
Also known as: Alphonse Marie Mucha; Mucha, Alphonse MarieBirth Place: Ivancice (Jihomoravský, Czech Republic)
Born in Ivancice, Moravia, Alphonse Mucha was determined to become a painter when he graduated high school, despite his father’s disapproval, and left to study at the Academie Julian in Paris in 1887 through the generosity of a patron in Moravia. After several years of painting murals for his benefactor, Mucha’s funding ceased, and he was left a struggling artist in Paris, eventually falling deathly ill as a result of his poor diet.
Upon recovery, he shared a studio space with fellow artist Paul Gauguin, and the two spent much of their time together traveling and exchanging creative feedback. This collaboration helped fortify Mucha’s vision, and his compositions began to exhibit more and more of an ornamental quality, with byzantine inspired mosaic backgrounds and a balance of realistic and stylized elements.
Using natural color palettes to complement his highly decorative drawing technique, Mucha defined his own concept of the Woman as a motif—in theme as well as in form. His revolutionary taste for sensuous, organic curves and forms intertwined with lush flora eventually caught the attention of actress Sarah Bernhardt in 1895, who signed him on a six year contract to produce stage and costume designs, as well as posters for her shows. With this commission, Mucha’s reputation as a graphic artist was established and the exposure of his talents to a wider audience brought him rapid fame.
Nevertheless, Mucha remained a virtuoso of many trades throughout his career, also spending time creating intricate jewelry, furniture, wallpaper and interiors in addition to the posters, drawings and paintings that made him a household name. Accordingly, despite his own personal rejection of the connection, Mucha’s proclivity to transform everyday materials into works of art would forever affiliate his name with the Art Nouveau movement.
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