2Mucha was established as a leading poster artist between 1895 and 1900 Mucha was established as a leading poster artist between 1895 and 1900. During this period, six posters by Mucha appeared in Les Maîtres de l'Affiche, Jules Chéret’s monthly publication featuring the best posters of the time selected by him. Also from that time, Mucha’s distinctive style was called ‘le style Mucha’, becoming synonymous with the current ‘Art Nouveau’ style.
3In gaining wider public recognition as the ‘Master of the Art Nouveau poster’. Decorative panels were posters without text, a prototype of today’s art posters, designed purely for artistic appreciation or decorating interior walls. It was the printer Champenois who invented this idea from the business point of view: to maximise business opportunity by recycling Mucha’s designs for many different editions. However, it was Mucha who transformed them into a new art form, affordable and available to the wider public, whereas, traditionally, works of art were available only to the privileged few.
5He also believed that it was his duty as an artist to promote art for ordinary people. He was able to fulfill both of these objectives by means of his innovative concept of the mass-produced decorative panel. Of the panels, Mucha later wrote: ‘I was happy to be involved in an art for the people and not for private drawing rooms. It was inexpensive, accessible to the general public, and it found a home in poor families as well as in more affluent circles.’
6The first of Mucha’s decorative panels were The Seasons (1896), a series of four panels representing the theme of the four seasons. The series proved very popular and it was followed by other popular series including The Flowers (1898), The Arts (1898), The Times of the Day (1899), The Precious Stones (1900) and The Moon and the Stars (1902). These panels illustrate all the typical qualities of the Mucha poster – the beautiful women with suggestive gestures, the decorative use of flowers and flowing hair, the subtle yet striking colours – all combine to create a compelling harmony of vision whose intention is to inspire and elevate the viewer.
7The Seasons (series) 1896 Spring Summer This was Mucha's first set of decorative panels and it became one of his most popular series. It was so popular that Mucha was asked by Champenois to produce at least two more sets based on the same theme in 1897 and Designs for a further two sets also exist.The idea of personifying the seasons was nothing new - examples could be found in the works of the Old Masters' as well as in Champenois's other publications. However, Mucha's nymph-like women set against the seasonal views of the countryside breathed new life into the classic theme. In the four panels shown here, Mucha captures the moods of the seasons - innocent Spring, sultry Summer, fruitful Autumn and frosty Winter, and together they represent the harmonious cycle of Nature.SpringSummer
14Rêverie (daydream) חלום בהקיץ (1897)Like Zodiac, this lithograph was originally designed to serve as the 1898 Its immediate popularity led to its swift publication by the magazine La Plume as a decorative panel with the title Reverie (daydream).Mucha's design shows a dreamy-eyed young woman leafing through a book of decorative designs. The prominent disk behind her is elaborately decorated with flowers and their stems forming a lace-like pattern.
16Months of the Year 'August' Months of the Year 'August' Months of the Year 'April'Months of the Year 'August' Months of the Year 'August'
17The Arts 1898 The Arts (series) (1898) Produced at the height of Mucha's fame in 1898, this series was printed on vellum in an edition of 1000 copies, with an additional 50 limited edition copies printed on satin.Mucha discarded traditional attributes such as musical instruments, paintbrushes and quills. Instead he emphasised the creative inspiration of natural beauty by giving each of the arts a circular backdrop featuring a motif from nature indicating a particular time of day: for Dance falling leaves blown by a morning breeze; for Painting a red flower encircled by rainbows in fresh daylight; for Poetry the evening star shining in the sky at dusk; for Music the song of birds at moonrise.The Arts
18study pencil & watercolour 56 x 34.8 cm The Arts: Dance (1898)Dance, the most sensual of the series, is the sole standing figure. Her sinuous figure and long auburn hair sway in the autumn breeze.1898 'The Arts - Dance'study pencil & watercolour 56 x 34.8 cm
191898 'The Arts - Music' study pencil & watercolour 56 x 34.8 cm
201898 'The Arts - Music' lithograph 60 x 38 cm A passionate musician himself, Mucha chose to personify music as a woman with both hands raised to her ears listening to a chorus of nightingales, the most creative and spontaneous of songbirds.1898 'The Arts - Music' lithograph 60 x 38 cm
211898 'The Arts - Painting' lithograph 60 x 38 cm A girl with outstretched hands holds a red flower in her right hand. The flower symbolises nature as a source of inspiration and admiration for the artist.1898 'The Arts - Painting' lithograph 60 x 38 cm
221898 'The Arts - Poetry' lithograph 60 x 38 cm Poetry is personified by a female figure gazing at the moonlit countryside in contemplation. She is framed by a laurel branch, the attribute of divination and poetry1898 'The Arts - Poetry' lithograph 60 x 38 cm
23The Flowers (series) (1898) The Flowers - Carnation, Lily, Iris, Rose" In this series personifying four flowers, Mucha uses a naturalistic style with minimal stylisation.Two of the original watercolours were exhibited at Mucha's solo exhibition at the Salon des Cent in 1897, but the entire set did not becoma available until the following year.The series sold out very quickly and Champenois decided to print a smaller version with all four panels presented in a single imageThe Flowers - Carnation, Lily, Iris, Rose"lithography, 103,5 x 43,
24The Flowers - Carnation", lithography,103,5 x 43,5 cm., 1898
30Byzantine Heads: Brunette (1897) The pendants that form part of this tiara herald Mucha's later jewellery designs. A similar design can be seen in Mucha's Zodiac panel of the previous year.It was on the basis of these highly detailed designs that Parisian jeweller Georges Fouquet decided to enlist the help of Mucha for his collection for the 1900 Exposition Universelle.
31Byzantine Heads: Blonde (1897) Blond wears a white scarf in her hair embellished with jewels and an ornate metal disk fringed with pearls.It was on the basis of these highly original designs that Fouquet decided to enlist the help of Mucha for his collection for the 1900 Exposition Universelle.
32The Times of the Day (series) (1899) In this series, Mucha combined fresh yet delicate colours with exuberant floral motifs.Each woman is set within natural surroundings which reflects her mood. The whole is then enclosed in an elaborate ornamental frame reminiscent of a Gothic window.Morning AwakeningBrightness of DayBrightness of DayBrightness of Day
36The Precious Stones (series) (1900) In this series, women personify four precious stones. In each panel, the upper part of the composition is dominated by the female figure, while the lower part features a realistically drawn flower whose colour echoes that of the particular gemstone. The colour scheme of each panel - including the flowing robes, the hair decorations, the mosaic halos and even the colour of the woman's eyes – recalls the colour of the stone. This lends a pleasing harmony to each image.RubyAmethyst
371900 The Precious Stones 'L'Amèthyste' (Amethyst) Study of Drapery gouache
381900 The Precious Stones 'L'Èmeraude' (Emerald) lithograph 67 1900 The Precious Stones 'L'Èmeraude' (Emerald) lithograph 67.2 x 30 cm)1900 The Precious Stones photographic study in Mucha's stdio Rue du Val de Grâce, Paris
40This panel was later used as a calendar for the signage company Dewez. Laurel (1901)The position of the girl's head, with slightly lowered eyes, is the same as that of three of the ten glass panels Mucha designed the same year for the interior of the Boutique Fouquet.The leaf motif around the circular frame recalls the decorative frame of Zodiac (1896).This panel was later used as a calendar for the signage company Dewez.
41Ivy (1901)This panel recalls the poster Mucha designed for the dancer Lygie the same year and may well have been inspired by her.The decorative ivy foliage transforms the circular frame into an oblong.Both Ivy and its companion piece Laurel were later produced as decorative metal plates.
42Heather from Coastal Cliffs (1902) Mucha regularly holidayed in the coastal province of Normandy in northwestern France, and referred to this panel as La Normande.
43Thistle from the Sands (1902) Mucha regularly holidayed in the coastal province of Brittany in northwestern France, and referred to this panel as La Bretonne.The plant carried by the Breton woman is in fact not a thistle but a sea holly which flourished in coastal areas.