Alfons Maria Mucha Provided by Goout

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Central Gallery Staroměstské náměstí 15, Praha 1

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Alfons Mucha was the son of the clerk Ondřej Mucha. Although he was showed a promising talent from early childhood, he never thought he could be a painter. Then, during a holiday journey, he accidentally met the last representative of the sacral baroque painting, the old master Umlauf, whose frescoes in the Ústí nad Labem and especially the Prague Sts. Ignatius impressed him deeply. However, they did not accept him into the Academy in Prague, so he instead took a position as theater decoration painter at the Ringtheater in Vienna. Thus, he became a disciple of the creator of the magnificent canvases of Hans Makart, who enjoyed the great favor of the famous and powerful Austrian monarchy. However, the theater burned down and the painter suddenly found himself back in South Moravia, in Mikulov. Temporary help and patronage was promised by the owner of the neighboring estate, Count Khuen. He entrusted him with the decoration of the new castle, the castle dining room in Hrušovany, and sent him to Tyrol to decorate another family castle, and later offered him studies in Munich, where he studied with Professor Herterich and Lofftz. After Munich, Mucha elected to attend the Julian Academy in Paris, but after a year of study, his patronage was refused, so he started to make his own living as a graphic artist and illustrator. He was friends with Serusier, Maurice Denis and writer Strindberg, and even lived with Paul Gauguin for some time. His poster for the Renaissance Theater, announcing Gismonda with actress Sarah Bernhardt, made him a renowned and sought-after artist in 1895.

His struggle to support himself stretched into a fateful encounter with Sarah Bernhardt, who formed a six-year contract with Mucha. He was awarded the Silver Medal and Honorary Legion at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900. Mucha taught at Collarossi Academy and later at his own school. After his marriage to Maruška Chytilová, during her American stay, he worked in academies in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. In New York, a Slavic Committee was founded. At that time, the idea of ​​the Slav Epic was born, which he realized after returning to Bohemia. Mucha made a living from realistic portraits. He strove to perfect the harmony of image composition, rather than simply sketch. His works include portraits of Leslie Carter, Maud Adams, and Zdenka Černá, but also late poster design after returning to Bohemia from the 20th (Slavie, Princess Hyacinta, poster for Všesokolský slet etc.).

Max Svabinsky said of Alfonso Mucha: “He never ceased to be a woman poet!” Somewhere, the euphoria of a beautiful age ends with these portraits, and the time of women’s social activism set in. Mucha himself felt a change in the sensitivity of the time. After returning to the Czech Republic, he was involved in the social realization of architecture, such as the decoration of the Municipal House or the stained glass for St. Vitus Cathedral. After the proclamation of the republic, proposed the national emblem and new banknotes, stamps, posters. In 1939, Nazi troops occupied Bohemia and Moravia. Four months after this tragedy, the heavily ill Alfons Mucha was questioned by the Gestapo and died on 14 July 1939 from pneumonia. For the last 20 years of his career, he had had the almost superhuman task of completing a series of 36 monumental symbolic canvases for the Slavonic Epic (only 20 paintings depicting the evolution of the Slavs from the St. Vitus Festival to Rujan after the symbolic liberation of Slavia). This task completely absorbed the artist. To this day, he is not fully appreciated, and so, finally, as a reference to his work, the Snake Bracelet, designed for Sarah in 1899, remains a jewel of the century and a true gem of his time, as well as a symbol of such a high stylization with honor to the woman that made his career possible.