– Alphonse Mucha –
By Giorgia Ferro
The artist’s own words best exemplify the mood of the recent exhibition: Alphonse Mucha running at Palazzo Pallavicini until the twentieth of January 2019.
Showcasing around 80 works from the Mucha Trust Collection, this expo features his most iconic posters and decorative works from his Parisian period. The show is insightfully arranged into three thematic sections: Women Icons & Muses, Le Style Mucha – a Visual Language, Beauty – The Power of Inspiration, giving us a sense of his style and inspiration.
The Czech-born Mucha, rose to fame in Paris during the late 1890s thanks to his most famous Art Nouveau posters starring the ‘super-star’ actress Sarah Bernhardt in her many characterizations, and these are on display throughout the show. Bernhardt was the single most influential figure in Mucha’s life as an artist. His poster design for her play ‘Gismonda’ was an immediate success, launching his career to new heights.
Thrilled by the popularity of his new style, which had broken away from Toulouse Lautrec’s swift strokes, Bernhardt offered Alphonse Mucha a six-year contract to create costumes, the backdrops, props, and posters for her productions at the Théâtre de la Renaissance.
His work particularly contributed to the Art Nouveau style in the fin de siecle Paris, combining a great attention to detail, harmony, natural decorative elements, the use of gold, pastel colours and a focus on the elegance of the female form. His easily-recognisable designs and repeated motifs including the single full-length figure, a halo, distinctive font, botanical elements and floral decorations helped to establish him as a brand, an avant-garde graphic designer in his own right. His posters democratized the liberty style, literally taking it to the streets and he was quickly in high demand.
Throughout the show, one gets a sense of the aesthetic essence of beauty and harmony, whilst gazing at the balanced gracefulness of the posters, one cannot help but wonder about the plays that were being advertised, at once intrigued with admiration at the quality of the form and the characters themselves. A particularly delicate series of willowy and sophisticated women exemplifying the allegory of the four seasons has echoes of the Pre-Raphaelites and Botticelli’s love of nature and the female form.
Another strikingly significant piece not to miss is Zodiac which was Mucha’s first work under his contract with the printer Champenois and was originally designed as an in-house calendar for the company. In this composition, Mucha incorporated twelve zodiac signs in the halo-like disk behind the woman’s head, one of Mucha’s customary motifs. The majestic beauty of the woman is emphasized by her regal bearing and elaborate jewellery.
Surrounded by the grandeur of the Palazzo Pallavicini, one may appreciate the frescoed ceilings and statues, throughout an exhibition which is both educational whilst very pleasing to the eye.