Artist profile: Alphonse Mucha – Art posters (those ladies)

Artist profile: Alphonse Mucha – Art posters (those ladies)

Every month, I profile an artist who inspires my own art,
in several segments.

 
Alphonse Mucha very much desired to bring art into the homes of the less fortunate. His art posters, or decorative panels, were a means to this end and are also some of his most well-known works today.

Among his poster series are The Seasons (1896), The Flowers (1898), The Arts (1898), The Seasons again (1900), and The Precious Stones (1900). Most of these are personifications of either natural things or ideas in the form of classical beauties.

Before I present my favorites, I’d like to point out The Flowers: Carnation (1898) in comparison to an ad for Bisquit Cognac the following year. Mucha made a collection of reference photographs of models in various poses; he obviously used the same photograph for these two creations.

Carnation on the left, Bisquit ad on the right
Carnation on the left, Bisquit ad on the right

Below are posters that I either like very much or I think are important to note.

The Precious Stones: Emerald (1900)
The Precious Stones: Emerald (1900)

Model posing in Mucha's studio, Paris (1899-1900)
Model posing in Mucha’s studio, Paris (1899-1900)

Below is The Seasons: Winter from 1896. It’s a great example of how Japanese ukiyo-e prints (which I talk about in Hiroshige’s artist profile) influenced European artists. Compare with Hiroshige’s Shrines in Snowy mountains.

The Seasons: Winter (1896)
The Seasons: Winter (1896)

Hiroshige's Shrines in Snowy Mountains
Hiroshige’s Shrines in Snowy Mountains

The Arts are an interesting twist on personifications. While the women still represent the ideas of Music, Poetry, Dance, and Painting, the manner in which they do so is more subtle than usual. Music listens for music; Poetry gazes into the distance, pensive and brooding like a stereotypical poet; and Dance doesn’t actually dance, but her clothes and hair move dynamically around her body.

The Arts: Music (1898)
The Arts: Music (1898)

The Arts: Poetry (1898)
The Arts: Poetry (1898)

The Arts: Dance (1898)
The Arts: Dance (1898)

The Arts: Painting (1898)
The Arts: Painting (1898)

Painting is probably the hardest one to read: she observes a flower, perhaps to re-create it on canvas later? The sketch of Painting has her hand up closer to her face as if she’s shielding herself from the flower. The circles that emanate from the flower also might mean something, but then again, maybe Mucha just threw them in to be pretty.

sketch for The Arts: Painting (1898)
sketch for The Arts: Painting (1898)

(You can find the other sketches on the Mucha Foundation website: Music, Poetry, and Dance.

Salome, below, was made for the Issue No. 2 of L’estampe Moderne, which sent out four exclusive lithographs per month to its subscribers. Salome was a popular subject for artists, poets, and playwrights in the 1890s. I just think she’s neat – the rings in her hair, her jeweled belt, the instrument, the circles in the background.

Salome (1897)
Salome (1897)

Lastly, fans of Sailor Moon will find the artwork below familiar. Originally, Reverie was the artwork for the 1898 Champenois company calendar, but it was also a decorative poster published by the magazine La Plume.

Reverie (1897)
Reverie (1897)

from Chapter 21 (volume 4, Sailor Moon R)
from Chapter 21 (volume 4, Sailor Moon R)

Other parts in the Alphonse Mucha artist profile series
Introduction
Theatre and advertisements
3D works
The Slav Epic

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