As mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t realize that Art Nouveau took such hold in Prague and although I’ve seen Mucha’s work before I didn’t know who he was or that he was Czech.
The Mucha museum is small (and very warm) but has a great collection. No pictures allowed so I am pulling from the interwebs. Mucha was drawing before he could walk – his mom used to tie a pencil around his neck so he could draw wherever he was. In the museum there were several examples of his pencil drafts that really showed off what a great draftsman he was.
Although he was talented enough to work as an artist (and had a patron for a time), he didn’t get his “big break” until he was 34. Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous Parisian actress at the time, needed a poster made and all her usual guys were on Christmas vacation so she hired Mucha. The poster was so popular that people stole it off walls; Bernhardt signed a 6-year contract with Mucha and the rest is history.
Mucha was proud of his heritage and oftentimes Slavic motifs would appear in his work. When Czechoslovakia won independence after WWI, he wanted to give back to his country and designed their currency, postage stamps, medals, etc. His work is also on the interior of the Municipal House but for some reason we didn’t stop inside to see. 🙁 His major life’s work is called the Slav Epic, a series of 20 giant paintings about the history of the Czech and the Slavic people in general. Unfortunately, the Slav Epic is on tour.
One thing I found a little ironic and annoying is that Mucha was always so closely tied to his Slavic roots but in the gift shop you could only buy prints of his Parisian stuff! Not that it’s not beautiful – we got a print of Spring, below – but as a Slavic enthusiast (?) myself I actually really wanted something from that vein. But we ended up getting a print of “Spring” (below), which incidentally was also in our hotel room along with several other Mucha prints. They really go for it there.
St. Vitus cathedral has one stained glass that is done by Mucha himself, really spectacular. It shows St. Wenceslas and St. Ludmila in the middle, with scenes about the Christianization of the Slavic people (via Sts Cyril and Methodious). He completed it when he was 71!