Works of art by one of the most influential artists of the Art Nouveau movement is on view at the Walker Art Gallery
This major touring exhibition from the Mucha Foundation explores the work of Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) around the theme of beauty. The Czech-born artist rose to fame in Paris in the late 1890s with his elegant designs for decorative panels and his iconic illustrations that featured on posters and product advertisements.
Showcasing 100 works primarily drawn from the Mucha Trust collection, the exhibition includes drawings, paintings, photographs and a rare Mucha sculpture. It also includes a number of key Aesthetic and Art Nouveau works from National Museums Liverpools collections, as well as sculptures by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), a friend of Muchas.
Xanthe Brooke, Curator of European Fine Art at the Walker Art Gallery, said: The works of Alphonse Mucha are undoubtedly some of the most widely-recognised examples of the Art Nouveau style, and still a popular choice for interior decoration and design.
Prints of his most distinctive illustrative posters adorn the walls of many peoples homes, and its fantastic to see that Art Nouveau is still embraced by contemporary audiences and reflected in modern culture. Were looking forward to welcoming visitors to the Walker to see a huge array of his works, showing the depth of style and skill that Mucha employed to ensure an artistic legacy that lives on today.
The exhibition includes Gismonda, the first of six theatrical designs produced by Mucha for the French actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923). Bernhardt was the greatest stage personality of her era, hailed as The Divine Sarah. Gismonda proved to be such a popular design that posters featuring the artwork were stolen from hoardings in Paris at the time.
Following the success of his theatrical posters, Mucha signed an exclusive contract with a French publisher in 1896, producing some 80 designs with subjects ranging from consumer products such as perfume and confectionary to cultural and tourism events. The decorative designs reflected modern life in Paris at the time, referred to as La Belle Epoque; translated to Beautiful Age.
The decorative designs were also produced in large print runs and made available as affordable posters for the wider public to purchase. Mucha believed that attractive works of art elevated peoples morale and improved the quality of their lives. His design formulas, known as le style Mucha, became a visual language for communicating his message of beauty.
Although he drew inspiration from a variety of influences, Muchas style evolved from his Slavic roots. He integrated references to his homeland into his designs, including themes from nature, Slavic costume and folk art. The exhibition showcases a preparatory pastel for Muchas monumental Slav Epic series (1911-1926), which depicts a history of the Slav people.
Another key early influence on Mucha was the work of the British Pre-Raphaelite painter and designer Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898). Burne-Jones paintings became the success of Paris in 1889 after he exhibited there at the World Fair (Exposition Universelle). Mucha shared his appreciation for a tall, narrow design format and the curving pose of his female models.
The Art Nouveau style flourished across Europe with regional and national variants emerging. In Merseyside, its influence was felt in the Birkenhead-based Della Robbia Pottery Company (1893-1906), established by local artist and businessman Harold Rathbone and the sculptor/ceramicist Conrad Dressler. Decorative pottery by Della Robbia will feature in the exhibition.