Alphonse Mucha

Czech painter, illustrator and graphic artist (1860–1939)

Alphonse Mucha[1][2][3] (24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939) was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist,[4] best known for his distinct style and his images of women. He produced many paintings, illustrations, advertisements, and designs.

Poster of Maude Adams as Joan of Arc, 1909

Mucha moved to Paris in 1887, continued his studies, and worked at producing magazine and advertising illustrations.

Around Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to drop into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play starring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Paris. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on 1 January 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou appeared on the streets of the city. It was an overnight sensation and announced the new artistic style and its creator to the citizens of Paris.[5] Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she entered into a 6-year contract with Mucha.

Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewellery, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was initially called the Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau (French for 'new art'). Mucha's works frequently featured beautiful, strong young women in flowing vaguely Neoclassical looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind the women's heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colours.[6]

F. Champenois Imprimeur-Éditeur, lithograph, 1897.

The 1900 Paris Exhibition spread the "Mucha style" abroad, of which Mucha said "I think [the Exposition Universelle] made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts."[7] He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated in the Austrian Pavilion.

Mucha's Art Nouveau style was often imitated. The Art Nouveau style however, was one that Mucha attempted to distance himself from. He always insisted that his paintings came purely from within and from Czech art.[5] He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more. He was frustrated at the fame he gained through commercial art, when he most wanted to concentrate on more lofty projects that would ennoble art and his birthplace.


  1. "Mucha, Alphonse", Grove Dictionary of Art Online. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  2. James, Ryan; Mastrini, Hana; Baker, Mark; Olson, Karen Torme; Charlton, Angela; Bain, Keith; Bruyn, Pippa de (2009). Frommer's? Eastern Europe. John Wiley & Sons. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-470-47334-4.
  3. Czech: [ˈalfons ˈmuxa]  (  listen)
  4. "Mucha, noted artist, dropped first name; death due to shock caused by Germans' seizure Of Prague". New York Times. 18 July 1939. Retrieved 2008-04-20. The artist Mucha—he always signed his work without his given name, which he preferred to ignore—died here ...
  5. 5.0 5.1 An introduction to the work of Alphonse Mucha and Art Nouveau Archived 2016-04-16 at the Wayback Machine, lecture by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC.
  6. Anna Dvorak. 1980. “Illustrations for books and periodicals.”, page 134 in Anne Bridges (ed) Alphonse Mucha: the complete graphic works. NY: Harmony.
  7. Alphonse Mucha 1902. Documents decoratifs.