The 19th century witnessed the birth of Art Nouveau, and the earlier years of the 20th century saw its limbs grow in popularity and interest. It was the defining art style for the world to adopt until the first world war happened.
Regardless of this, and despite certain degrees of opposition from academia regarding it as a rebellion against the industrial revolution, Art Nouveau (or Art belle époque as it is called in France) is an art style that has left its mark.
Undoubtedly, this is owed to the artists that made people fall in love with it. Showcasing the beauty of nature, the elegance of women, and sensuality in the ordinary things around us, Art Nouveau enjoyed a 20-year flourish from 1890 to 1910.
One artist helped this flourish and grew with the art style until its peak. This is an artist whose famous works we will be talking about in this blog post, giving you an insight into what served as the major themes of his creativity with his masterpieces.
Introducing Alphonse Mucha
Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939) is a Czech artist based in France who dedicated his life to creating paintings, illustrations, and interior decorations aligned with the Art Nouveau movement. Whether his success depended on the increasing fame of Art Nouveau or the other way round, it isn’t a coincidence that his fame kicked off in 1985.
Alphonse Mucha became famous for his decorative panels. Panneaux décoretifs, as they were called, are posters without texts which were used as luxurious interior decor for walls. In a bid to make his work more readily available to the public, Alphonse Mucha embarked on projects to create new forms of panels, working alongside his printer, Champenoise.
There are six panels to be discussed, each having its unique sensuality and gratification, yet all connected by glaring themes and intricate details.
These are The Seasons (1896), The Flowers (1898), The Arts (1898), The Times Of The Day (1899), The Precious Stones (1900), and The Moon and The Stars (1902).
Now, let’s dive into the fantastic Alphonse Mucha drawings.
The Arts (1898)
By the time Alphonse Mucha was ready to release his next series of artwork, he already had the fame to test out production at new levels of luxury. A thousand pieces of The Arts posters were printed on Vellum, with an exclusive set of 50 printed on satin.
Like every previous series (and to be mentioned), the pieces feature ideas personified in female essence. It represents four art genres; Painting, Poetry, Music, and Dance.
One thing you will learn about Alphonse Mucha with this series is staying true to what defines you. Rather than using artificial elements like paintbrushes and musical instruments, Alphonse Mucha remained loyal to his Art Nouveau background.
The Flowers (1898)
The sequel series to The Seasons, The Flowers is another art setting where nature’s beauty is personified through female essence. It is a set of four flowers in good art style; Rose, Iris, Carnation, and Lily.
Each poster shows the flowers in full bloom, capturing every characteristic color and fully-grown length in all glory. Even the hairstyles of the female images match the bloom of the flowers.
The posters were first exclusively and individually exhibited in the Salon des Cent before making them publicly available in 1898. Champenois eventually made a panel where all the posters were featured on a single image, coming in response to fast-selling individual pieces.
The Seasons (1896)
The Seasons, as its title may give away, is a series of Alphonse Mucha sketches dedicated to the four seasons of the year- spring, autumn, summer, and winter. The personification of each season into human figures wasn’t a particularly new concept in Art Nouveau, but Alphonse Mucha added some spice to his work.
He captured the essence of each season well using the figures of women, creating pieces that resonated well with his audience. “Spring” shows a seemingly calm and sweet woman like spring. “Summer” is seductive, Autumn bears fruits (just like we reap in the season), and “Winter” gets comfy and tries to stay protected from the snow.
The Seasons gained a lot of success, more so that Champenoise advised Alphonse Mucha to create new sets in 1897 and 1900. Whether the 1896 set, 1897 set, or 1900 set, all had something in common. The Seasons was themed by women, plants, bright colors, and the natural cycle of time.
“Painting” was represented by a flower and rainbow in bright daylight, “Poetry” represented by a star shining in the night sky, “Music” represented by a singing bird, and “Dance” represented by a falling leaf. All the themes here include women, time, plants, and animals.
The Times Of The Day (1899)
Here is a series specifically dedicated to time and personified in Alphonse Mucha’s typical manner. The Times of The Day features representations of four parts that make up the evolution of our days. The women show respective moods accompanying them; Morning Awakening, the Brightness of Day, Evening Contemplation, and Night’s Rest.
The Precious Stones (1900)
Lovely women in elegant dresses are used to personify four revered gemstones; Topaz, Ruby, Amethyst, and Emerald. Probably the most consistent element throughout the Alphonse Mucha drawings is the use of color. From the ornamental items on the hairs and hairs themselves to the robes, plants, and down to even the color of the women’s eyes, each precious stone is well represented.
The Moon and The Stars (1902)
The beam of a star, the birth of a crescent, and the glory of a full moon, The Moon and The Stars, capture all the wonders of the night sky.
Showcasing women in sublime robes riddled with detail, the drawings also present more dramatic poses than posters in the previous series. A hand covers the eyes, a hand covers the mouth, cushioning a star on the forehead, and a hand brandishing a full moon; all figures beam in their peculiarities.
The fantastic drawings resonate around nature, as they strictly embrace Art Nouveau. They present us with the themes or elements of personification, time, plants, color symbolism, and the renaissance period.