What Is Art Nouveau?
“Flirt” was one of the brands of biscuits made by the Lefevre-Utile company, which commissioned Mucha for a number of projects over the years. This small poster was meant as a point of sale display.
The implication inherent in the name of the biscuit is realized here in the discreet flirtation between a very coy maiden and a handsome gentleman, a scene full of ardent intimacy despite its outward decorum; one of Mucha’s tenderest and most romantic concepts. It is always fun to look for the initials “LU” in Lefèvre-Utile posters: here, we can find them on the girl’s dress in profusion, and the full company name appears in the wrought iron gate behind the couple. Plus, there is a quarter slice of the biscuit itself in the lower left corner.
The added text “Grand Prix – Paris 1900” in the bottom decorative bar identifies this as a variant of the original version of this poster. Like most prestige companies, Lefèvre-Utile always displayed its wares at major fairs and trade exhibitions, and kept careful tabs on all the medals and prizes won by their products Lefèvre-Utile had one of the most spectacular private pavilions at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, facing the Seine.
Signature: Signed on the stone lower right Mucha.
Arthur Ellridge, Mucha: The Triumph of Art Nouveau, Terrail, Paris, 1992, p. 94 (ill.);
Rosalind Ormiston, Alphonse Mucha Masterworks, Flame Tree Publishing, London, 2007, p. 148 (ill.).
Alphonse Mucha is synonymous with Art Nouveau, a style of fine art, decorative art, and architecture that broke with the academicism of the 19th century in favor of florid lines inspired by the natural environment. A lithographed advertising poster he was commissioned to create for a play featuring the celebrated actress Sarah Bernhardt in 1894 catapulted him out of obscurity and brought him instant success as a commercial artist. Rendered in pale pastels, much of his work depicts beautiful young women draped in Neoclassical robes set amidst flowers, feathers, and other sensuous natural forms. He was celebrated not only for illustrating advertising posters, but also for painting, book illustrations, sculpting, and designing theater sets, jewelry, and wallpaper.
Czech, 1860-1939, Ivančice, Czech Republic, based in Paris, France