Alphonse Mucha (1860–1939, Czech)
Decorative prints: the tetraptychs
Mucha was an influential Czech painter and decorative artist of the turn of the century. His elegant depictions of females in neoclassical robes became an overnight sensation in Paris, where what was originally termed the “Mucha style” came to be known as Art Nouveau. Over the next few years he was highly sought-after for his skill in producing aesthetically beautiful advertising posters, and after finding how often these posters were stolen from walls, a considerable industry in printing reproductions for home display emerged.
His later career was primarily focused on oil painting, and most of the posters and designs that he is best-known for were produced in less than a decade, between 1895 and 1902, which must be one of the most intense periods of inspiration in artistic history. Alongside advertisements and other figurative prints for home display, Mucha was also what might nowadays be termed as a graphic designer: his compendium Documents décoratifs (1901) was a collection of drawings including figures, cutlery, typeface, jewellery, furniture and decorative panel designs that could spread his aesthetic ideas and serve as models for craftsmen and students of art and design. Mucha’s response to the positive reaction to his art at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris indicates a viewpoint similar to William Morris’s Arts & Crafts Movement in England
“I think [the Exposition Universelle] made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts”
Many of Mucha’s best-known works are four-part series depicting women personifying themes of nature: the best known being his three series of the seasons. This gallery collects most of these works.
A note about reproductions: Mucha’s style was defined by its delicate utilisation of pastel colour. Over the years, with hundreds of reprints and iterative versions, the Mucha we see today is often a lot brighter and more saturated than it originally would have been. As such, take the colouration of online reproductions of Mucha’s work with criticism. The framing of the works, whether they include the titles or not, etc, have also varied considerably depending on the reprint, with some having extended decorative borders, and others with the borders entirely absent. More than any other artist, Mucha’s legacy is more of a template of poses and styles than finalised designs in his most popular works.