Belle Czech Artist Alphonse Mucha

Theme: Eastern Europe

Although we have been discussing the varied literary works of Eastern Europe, this by no means can prevent me from sharing the inspiration and awe I felt after visiting the Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) exhibit at the Fabre Museum in Montpellier, France last week.  A true Czech and a true artist, he was a man of staggering talent infused with a empathic vision of humanity and in particular, his own people. I can’t begin to describe to you the impact of seeing a painting like this in full scale.  The above painting, The Allegory of Bosnia Herzegovina(1900), is a muted yet vibrant masterpiece.  Painted as the interior decoration of the Bosnia-Herzegovina pavilion for the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, it’s measurements are 252 5/16 x 100 5/8 in.  You can see the traces of his famous Art Nouveau poster work in the faces and the colors that defined the Belle Epoque artistic movement, but you can also see the beginning of his spiritual themes and a return to the plight of his people.  With a perfect blend of nostalgia and sentimentality, this panel represents the commencement of his dedication to his roots which would eventually be unveiled in his magnum opus, The Slav Epic.

This painting,
Jan Milic of Kromeriz: A Brothel Converted into a Convent(1916), was part of the story told in The Slav Epic.  In the museum, they study for the final painting was shown. The study used more of his traditional palette, but the painting is identical to this one.  Walking through the exhibit, one cannot help but be impressed at Mucha’s virtuosity of at all styles of painting.  With his adeptness at watercolor, this painting is a departure from the style that brought him fame but is no less impressive.  Throughout the epic, the influence of spirituality, not religion, hardship and faith dominate.  One of Mucha’s personal beliefs was a respect for all religions-Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, etc.-and it shows in his work, particularly the painting The Slavonic Liturgy-Praise the Lord in Your Native Tongue(1912).

The finale of this epic is the below painting, Apotheosis of the Slavs: Slavs for Humanity(1926), which gathers all of the elements and presents a shining triumph of the Slavs as a people.  As with much of the fiction, there is a political bend to some of the work in this epic.  But what separates Mucha from the writers is his belief in all of humanity and spirituality that transcends all political plights. 

A website well worth checking out is the Mucha Foundation.  Full of all things Alphonse, you can peruse history an art from an artist that honored art and humanity equally. 

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