Aren’t Mucha paintings wonderful? To me, they’re a fabulous mixture of dreamlike composition and stunning skill, redolent with silky textures, serene expressions, swirling hair and delicate features.
A Czech artist working in Prague and Paris in the early 20th century, Alphonse Mucha painted adverts, flyers and posters – and sometimes just art for art’s sake – entirely representative of his own, Art Nouveau time (Art Nouveau is up there in my top 5 kinds of design, mainly for its unbelievable “fussiness” and delicate swirls).
The women depicted are more often than not softly curved, swathed in luxurious fabric and haloed by a mass of unruly tendrils and pleasingly-complex geometric shapes, either dancing or triumphant, or laid-back, smoking, drinking, sitting.
They are ladies of understated leisure and artistry, as creative as the artist who paints them. They have all the beauty and traditional femininity of a pre-Raphaelite Rossetti or a Stanisław Wyspiański, without the often-found “downtrodden woman” vibes. Here, the woman is centre stage, the owner of the picture, the mistress of all she surveys, drinks, eats or smokes.
And they’re often incredible records of the design and pastimes of the time, due to their role as adverts and flyers for everything from chocolate to cigarettes to alcohol to play performances. The history geek in me just can’t get enough.
Plus, I also think they are stunningly beautiful.