Alphonse Mucha: In Quest of Beauty
16 June – 29 October 2017
Czech-born Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939) is recognised as one of the most prominent artists of the Art Nouveau movement, producing iconic works including Gismonda; the artist’s first poster design for the actress Sarah Bernhardt.
Alphonse Mucha: In Quest of Beauty is a major touring exhibition from the Mucha Foundation which explores the work of the artist around the theme of beauty – the core principle underlying his artistic philosophy.Showing around 100 works primarily drawn from the Mucha Trust collection, the exhibition will include drawings, paintings, photographs and some of the artist’s celebrated poster designs, synonymous with the Art Nouveau style of the fin-de-siècle. A number of key ‘aesthetic’ and art nouveau works from National Museum Liverpool’s own collections will also feature within the exhibition.
The exhibition includes Gismonda, the first of six theatrical designs produced by Mucha for the French actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923). Bernhardt was the greatest stage personality of her era, hailed as ‘The Divine Sarah’. Gismonda proved to be such a popular design that posters featuring the artwork were stolen from hoardings in Paris at the time.
Following the success of his theatrical posters, Mucha signed an exclusive contract with a French publisher in 1896, producing some 80 designs with subjects ranging from consumer products such as perfume and confectionary to cultural and tourism events. The decorative designs reflected modern life in Paris at the time, referred to as ‘La Belle Epoque’; translated to ‘Beautiful Age’.
The decorative designs were also produced in large print runs and made available as affordable posters for the wider public to purchase. Mucha believed that attractive works of art elevated people’s morale and improved the quality of their lives. His design formulas, known as ‘le style Mucha’, became a visual language for communicating his message of beauty.
Although he drew inspiration from a variety of influences, Mucha’s style evolved from his Slavic roots. He integrated references to his homeland into his designs, including themes from nature, Slavic costume and folk art. The exhibition will showcase a preparatory pastel from Mucha’s monumental Slav Epic series (1911-1926), which depicts a history of the Slav people.
Another key early influence on Mucha was the work of the British Pre-Raphaelite painter and designer Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898). Burne-Jones’ paintings became the success of Paris in 1889 after he exhibited there at the World Fair (Exposition Universelle). Mucha shared his appreciation for a tall, narrow design format and the curving pose of his female models.
The Art Nouveau style flourished across Europe with regional and national variants emerging. In Merseyside, its influence was felt in the Birkenhead-based Della Robbia Pottery Company (1893-1906), established by local artist and businessman Harold Rathbone and the sculptor/ceramicist Conrad Dressler. Decorative pottery by Della Robbia features in the exhibition.
- Access by train: The gallery is a short walk from Liverpool Lime St Station
- Access by car: Follow the directions to Liverpool Lime St station where there is a car park just opposite the Walker Art Gallery, William Brown St Liverpool
- Opening hours 10 am -5pm daily
- Tickets cost £7; £5 concessions; aged 18 and under free
- Further information 0151 478 4199