Alphonse Mucha:
In Quest of Beauty

28 August 2016

The Sainsbury Centre curated a fantastic exhibition about Alphonse Mucha and having grown up admiring his work I jumped at the chance to have a peek!

Working with the Mucha Foundation, The Sainsbury Centre presented over 60 works from the Foundation’s collection. The Curator of the Mucha Foundation and of this particular exhibition, Tomoko Sato, gave a special lecture, which I was lucky enough to attend.

It’s always such a pleasure to listen to someone who is so passionate and knowledgeable about their field so it was a real treat to learn more about Mucha from someone who has given so much of her time to preserving his legacy.

Alphonse Mucha

He is one of the most celebrated artists of the Art Nouveau movement, rising to international fame with his elegant designs. He was born in 1939 in Czech Republic where as a child his main hobby was drawing. He worked at decorative painting jobs, where he painted theatrical scenery.

“I was happy to be involved in art for the people and not for private drawing rooms. It was inexpensive, accessible to the general public, and it found a home in poor families as well as in more affluent circles.’’

In 1887 he moved to Paris where he continued to study art, as well as producing illustrations for advertising. Mucha believed as an artist he should promote art for the ‘ordinary person’.

A Chance Encounter

An unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt led to one of the great Mucha collaborations. Mucha went on to work with Bernhardt for six years.

In Quest of Beauty

The exhibition explored the theme of beauty, the core principle underlying Mucha’s artistic approach. The show featured drawings, paintings, posters, photographs and jewellery. The exhibition consisted of three sections, Women – Icons and Muses, Le Style Mucha, and Beauty – The Power of Inspiration. It was a great show to attend, as round every corner I found a classic image that I recognised.

Job

I was particularly pleased to see one of my favourites, ‘Job’. An advert created in 1898 for a brand of cigarette papers, yet the advertising concept is extremely modern. Rather than focussing on an image of the product, it portrays the pleasure of what is being advertised.

It’s a very elegant design with the woman’s hair flowing from top to bottom and a line of smoke zig-zagging throughout the background. It is surrounded by a lovely elegant mosaic and the light which shines from the centre is very eye-catching.

Russia Restituenda (Russia Must Recover) 1922

Slav Epic

The exhibition had an informative video about Mucha’s life and I learnt quite a lot about The Slav Epic which I was a bit embarrassed to admit I knew little about. The family hid the 20 massive canvasses during World War II to prevent their destruction.

The Sainsbury Centre

Yet again it was a fantastic exhibition to attend at The Sainsbury Centre. The work on display was varied and vast, and the talk by Tomoko Sato was especially interesting.

For more information about the Sainsbury Centre's exhibition visit their website.

Quote: Alphonse Mucha

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