What Is Art Nouveau?
FRAMED. Slight tears at edges. In 1896, Mucha was flush with success after his work for Sarah Bernhardt. But he was about to be exhibited alongside the stars of French fin-de-siècle lithography – Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, Steinlen, Grasset – in the Salon des Cent (the Salon of the One Hundred), a new series of exhibitions, hosted by the literary magazine La Plume, championing the art of lithography. “Mucha’s ambition was to become a member of this group," wrote Victor Arwas. The artist succeeded by attracting the attention of the gallery's owner, Deschamps. “Deschamps visited Mucha in his studio while he was designing the poster. Fascinated by what he saw, he persuaded Mucha to print it in this unfinished version… Mucha agreed, and the publisher’s feeling, that this lightly outlined, impressive poster would make Mucha famous, proved to be correct” (Mucha/Art Nouveau, p. 156).
Publisher: Imp. F. Champenois, Paris
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