Alphonse Marie Mucha (1860–1939)
Documents Decoratifs. Preface de Gabriel Mourey. Paris: Librairie Centrale des BeauxArts . Alphonse Mucha did not create Art Nouveau, but his work, especially as a poster artist, came to symbolize the full flowering of the style and the era. Born in Moravia, in what is now part of Czechoslovakia, Mucha worked as a painter of theatrical signs and court murals in Vienna and studied art in Munich. He arrived in Paris in the late 1880s, just as posters were emerging as the most popular art form of the day, due in part to the relatively new color printing process, chromolithography. Mucha struggled to make a living as a graphic artist, producing book illustrations, calendar art and other decorative designs, until he received a commission to do a poster for Sarah Bernhardt in “Gismonda.” The poster, which appeared on January 1,1895, marked a sharp break with previous poster design. The legendary Sarah and the public adored it, and its phenomenal success made Mucha a celebrity and the creator of images that embodied an entire era.
Documents Decoratifs published by the Librairie Centrale des Beaux-Arts and printed by Emile Levy, is a visual statement of Mucha’s artistic creed. In it he set down the precepts of Art Nouveau and its decorative elements. The portfolio, which contains 72 plates, was used for years by many art schools as a textbook, and it influenced a whole generation of artists.