Alphonse Mucha: 1860-1939

Les Saisons - Alsphonse Mucha

Alphonse Maria Mucha was born on July 24, 1860 in Ivančice, Moravia (now Czech Republic) and is known for his prominent role in shaping French Art Nouveau.  Mucha loved art as a child but studied on a choral scholarship at the Church of St Peter in Brno, the capital of Moravia.  In 1875, Mucha returned to Ivančice where he worked as a court clerk.

After his rejection from the Prague Academy of Fine Arts in 1878, Mucha traveled to Vienna to work as a scene painter for the firm of Kautsky-Brioschi-Burghardt.  In 1881, he left Vienna and moved to Mikulov (Czech Republic) where he paintied portraits. It was there that he met Count Khuen Belasi who commissioned him to decorate his castle at Emmahof and where the Count’s brother became his patron, enabling him to study at the Munich Academy of Art in 1885 and at the Acadamie Julian and the Academie Colarossi in Paris from 1887 to 1889.

Between 1890 and 1896, Mucha lived in a studio above Madame Charlotte’s cremerie and began illustrating for the theatre magazine “Le Costume au Theatre”. He met Paul Gauguin (who later shared his studio), and also began working for publisher Armand Colin.  In 1894, Mucha designed a poster for actress Sarah Bernhardt for the play “Gismonda” which led to a five year contract to create more posters and stage and costume designs for her as well as designs for magazines, book covers, jewellery and furniture for others.

Mucha’s illustrations are characterized by their mosaic backgrounds and influenced by Byzantine art. In contrast with poster makers of the time, he used paler pastel colours. His romantic female figures wear garments that are decorated with precious gems and are often flamboyantly posed and surrounded by lush flowers.

Mucha moved to a new studio in 1896 at rue du Val-de-Grace and his decorative panels “Les Saisons” were published by the Champenois firm, who he would sign an exclusive contract with around 1897.  Between 1897 and 1899, he had several solo exhibitions including shows at the Bodiniere Gallery and the Salon des Cent, in Paris, the Topic Gallery in Prague. As well, Mucha participated in the first exhibition of the Vienna Secession.

From 1904 – 1910 Mucha traveled and lived in America visiting New York, Boston, Chicago, and Philidelphia.  While there, he painted society portraits and met Charles Crane, who would later sponsor his work on the Slav Epic project. From 1905 – 1907, he worked on commissions and taught at art schools in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.  In June 1906, he married Maruška Chytilová (a former art student in Prague), with whom he had daughter Jaroslava, and  son Jiri.

Mucha, Maruška, and their daughter returned to Prague in 1910 where he would spend the next 18 years working on his Slav Epic project – a series of twenty paintings depicting the history of the Slav people.  In 1928, the completed series was officially presented to the Czech people and the City of Prague and was shown at the city’s Trade Fair Palace.  In 1931, Mucha was commissioned to design a stained glass window for the St. Vitus Cathedral, in Prague, donated by the Slavia Bank.

With the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939, Mucha was one of the first to be arrested by the Gestapo.  He was questioned and eventually released, but, having suffered from pneumonia in the Autumn of 1938, his health was weakened by the ordeal.  Alphonse Mucha died on July 14, 1939 and is buried at Vysehrad cemetery.  Over 100,000 Czechs attended the funeral despite the Nazi ban.

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the_apotheosis_of_the_slavs la-nature-mucha Gold Plated Bracelet - Alphonse Mucha

Sources: Mucha Foundation, Mucha Museum, Wikipedia

paintings: art paintings, portrait paintings and oil painting

Edward Hopper: 1882-1967

hopper-nighthawksBorn on July 22, 1882 in Nyack, New York, Edward Hopper is considered to be one of America’s greatest realist painters of the twentieth century.

Hopper studied illustration with the Correspondence School of Illustrating in New York City in 1899 and then at the New York School of Art between 1900 and 1906. He studied painting a year later with William Merrit Chase and then Kenneth Hayes Miller and Robert Henri.

In 1906 Hopper traveled to Paris, London, Haarlem, Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels to study works by European artists.   Returning to New York in 1907, he painted and worked part-time as an illustrator for fiction and trade magazines.

Hopper’s first exhibition was a group show, held at the Harmonie Club building in New York in March 1908.

From 1910 Hopper spent his summers painting in rural New England, in Gloucester and Cape Anne, Massachusetts, and Maine. In 1913 he moved to Washington Square, in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, which remained his permanent base. Hopper’s subject matter was derived from two main sources: first, everyday American life such as restaurants, gas stations, theaters, railroads, and street scenes; and second, seascapes and rural landscapes.

Initially, Hopper was more successful as an illustrator and with his etchings, in both sales and exhibitions.  In January 1920 he held his first solo exhibition, of 16 paintings at the Whitney Studio Club but was discouraged by the failure to achieve either sales or critical attention. In 1923, with the encouragement of artist Josephine Verstille Nivison (whom he married in 1924), Hopper began painting in watercolour. In 1924, he had his second solo exhibition at the Frank K. M. Rehn Gallery, which was a critical and commercial success.

From 1930 Edward and Josephine (Jo) began to spend their summers painting in Truro on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they built a home in 1934.  Hopper was an intensely private person and led a somewhat reclusive life, two characteristics that are reflected in his paintings.  Images of loneliness and detachment pervade Hopper’s works where he often depicted solitary figures (mostly women) who are often occupied with their own thoughts.

Hopper was very productive through the 1930s and early 1940s, producing many of his most important works.  In the late 1940′s however, his health was poor and he underwent several prostate surgeries. Hopper was active again in the 1950s and early 1960s,  producing several more major works.

Both the art world and pop culture has been influenced by Hopper’s work. Many artists have cited him as influential, including Willem de Kooning, Jim Dine, and Mark Rothko. His cinematic compositions and use of light and dark made him popular with filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), and Sam Mendes (New York Movie) to name a few.

Edward Hopper died on May 15, 1967 in his studio in New York City. Jo, who died 10 months later, left their collection of over three thousand works to the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Related Books:
Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper: A National Gallery of Art Presentation

Edward Hopper: 1882-1967, Vision of Reality

Sources: MOMA, National Gallery of Art, Wikipedia, Artchive (images)

paintings: art paintings, portrait paintings and oil painting