Sunday, 11 September 2016

"Alphonse Mucha" Exhibition

Today was the last day to visit the beautiful retrospective dedicated to the one who's considered the forerunner of Art Noveau, Alphonse Mucha, known for his pretty girls in elegant decorations, but this exhibition was also a chance to know that this artist is much more than this.

The beautiful exhibition was hosted at the Vittoriano, and it was divided into six thematic areas to explain the many-sided personality of this master of our times.

The first area, "A Bohemian in Paris" gave us a first insight of the man Mucha, with his most beloved family and his friends, among which was the painter Gaguin.
A special mention is surely dedicated to his wife Maruska, that he married on 1906 and since then became one of his favourite models, together with his daughter Jaroslava.
In this section it was also possible to see the collar that Alphonse presented to his wife upon their marriage, which was designed by the artist himself.
Mucha moved to Paris on 1886, where he managed to live and gain his first commissions, sponsored for a period by Eduard Khuen-Belasi, his first important commissioner hailing from Austria.
After a series of financial troubles, he had the luck to made a name for himself when he had the chance to collaborate with actress Sarah Bernhardt.

The expressivity and elegance of Mucha's touch impressed the popular actress, that contracted Mucha for six years.

This period introduced us to the second section of the exhibition, "A Picture-Maker for People": Mucha was extremely committed to the idea of an art that could improve the moral and social aspects of the masses; he contributed with poster dedicated to fund-raising for the victims of wars and the lower classes of his country, even when his name was inevitably connected with merchandising and publicity, due to his versatility.

An important commission of the time involved Mucha with the decoration of the pavillion of Bosnia-Herzegovina for the Universal Exposition of Paris; it was a job from the despised Autro-Hungarian Empire that was vexing his motherland, but it meant notoriety, big money and the first development of his beloved Slav patriotic themes that would generate the "Slav Epic".
In this period Mucha also released a series of publications dedicated to design and the teaching of design: "The Documents Décoratifs" were manuals including reference pictures, ready-to-use designs and tutorials aimed to explain and develop what was now called "The Mucha Style".
Always on the move, after returning back home, he would leave for the United States lo look for founders for his "Slave Epic" project.
This part of the exhibition is named "A Cosmopolitan".
It was 1904 and Mucha was acclaimed as a star. He ended up being involved again in commercial stuff, but fortunately he also found a commissioner for his ambitious project, Charles Richard Crane.
This allowed him to go back home and start working of his masterpiece.

The fourth area of the exhibition, "The Mystic", was dedicated to the spiritual attitude of Mucha.
It explained and introduced the influence of masonry, theosophy and occultism, extremely popular among intellectuals back in the days. Mucha mixed these new tendencies with the Catholic education received in his younger days, developing original interpretations for religious and spiritual subjects.

Peculiarly intriguing in this sense were the artistic comment to the "Pater Noster" and the "Madonna of the Lilies" that you can check above.

"The Patriot" retrieves what we were talking about before, his passion for his homeland and the values behind it-- Cultural identity, family, dignity.
The area is completely dedicated to the sketches and projects of his "Slav Epic", a series of twenty gigantic paintings dedicated to the fight for freedom of the Slav and Czech people.

It also features some moving posters dedicated to the social needs of his homeland or neighbouring countries.
Once that Czechoslovakia won its independence after World War I, Mucha designed whatever was needed for his new country, from stamps to banknotes to war medals.
Finally the "Slav Epic" was completed on 1928, and it was presented to the city of Prague.

The last section is a potpourri of emotions and messages: "The Artist Philosopher" is dedicated to the ideals and beliefs behind Mucha's artworks, so to made sure that the visitor can understand that this artist was not just a producer of fancy merchandising, but most importantly a human being that was extremely involved with the well-being of his fellow human beings.

"Wisdom knows that her journey
is the one that leads too goodness and the happiness
of humanity.
In this Journey... Wisdom shines
her own way and with her light she guides the wandering man."

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