On every trip a little rain must fall. Ours fell on a Sunday.
Our plan had been to take off after breakfast for some vide greniers, then visit Rue Mouffetard to catch the street dancing.
We'd wrap it up with a stop at Musee Luxembourg for a visit to the exhibit on artist Alphonse Mucha.
Rain cut the antique sales short -- many had covered up their exhibits by the time we arrived. And we didn't expect the dancers to be out, so we headed to the museum. It was packed.
I'd long wanted to see this exhibit and I thought I might be bitterly disappointed when you could barely move, much less see the art.
But the crowd evened out as we moved along and the end result was fascinating. You are probably familiar with the artist's work, particularly some of his posters for Sarah Bernhardt (I had needlepointed one of these long ago, perhaps the start of my interest in Mucha!).
He was also a leader in the Art Nouveau movement and much of his work was included in advertising on tins and packaging. You could find his work on everything from cookie tins...
...to champagne bottles.
What I didn't realize was that the Czech native returned to Czechoslovakia when he was 43 and created a series of canvases that depicted the history of the Slavic people.
The details on these paintings are remarkable and markedly different from the more art nouveau style of his theatrical and advertising work.
A deeply religious man, he was also quite musical but longed to study art. Although he was rejected from Prague's Academy of Fine Arts, he became an apprentice scenery painter for the theatre in Vienna and also became attracted to photography. He later went into portraiture and decorative art and began to receive some commission work, which brought him travel opportunities and expanded his style as an artist. Ultimately he landed in Paris and began a career in illustration. He expanded his interest in photography and was able to use his photos as inspiration for his art. Soon he was illustrating books as well.
But it was his work for Sarah Bernhardt that brought him great attention. She commissioned him to do a poster for her play, but it wasn't the first time he had painted her.
Earlier he had done illustrations for one of her performances.
The poster he did this time was ornate but in pastel colors, different from other posters of the day and it caused a great sensation. Mucha was given a contract to produce more posters of Bernhardt and he became well known. He also designed sets and costumes for her.
The posters were so popular he became in great demand for advertising posters and packaging. He then launched a series of decorating panels.
His work appeared at the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition and then began designing elaborate pieces of jewelry.
His collaboration with jeweler Georges Fouquet brought him great acclaim and Fouquet asked him to design the interior of his new shop, which the artist did with elaborate style in the Art Nouveau manner. He later ventured to America where he continued to meet with great success.
Mucha's love for his native Czechoslovakia continued. But Hitler and the Nazis were coming into power and when they took Prague, Mucha -- a nationalist -- was a prime target. Arrested, he was interrogated for several days and then released, dying four months later of pneumonia.
Despite being known for his Art Nouveau work, it was his Slav Epic paintings that he viewed as his most significant work. His style has since inspired countless other artists.
I don't know if this exhibit will ever tour, but if it does, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was not only visually stunning but fascinating to learn about the life of this remarkable and gifted man.
(By the way, I'm having trouble directly replying to comments, Blogger having stopped my notifications. I just want to let you know that I read and really appreciate (and am motivated by!) your comments and if I don't reply back, it's that manually dealing with these right now is making me a little crazy. Hopefully it'll be resolved in due course, otherwise, I'll go back to adding the reply page on my blog.)
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