Q: Today we are here with the iconic artist most notable during the Art Nouveau period of 1890-1910, Alphonse Mucha. In your early career as an artist, you were just illustrating for magazines and advertisements until your big break with “Gismonda”. Could you tell us a bit about that job?
A: Well, Sarah was a popular French stage actress and my biggest muse. I first met her in 1894 when I was still illustrating for odd jobs. She called the printing company I was helping out at demanding a rush order for a poster for her new production, “Gismonda”. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time for me, since all the regular artists were out on vacation and I was like a last resort to get the job done. Needless to say, the poster jump started my career and the rest is history.
Q: What do you think it is that made your work stand out from the crowd of other Parisian artists?
A: I believe my style to be very eye-catching due to the limited palette, flat colours, and of course, the organic and floral motifs combined with beautiful women. My style is very new and unique for the time, and I’m sure will carry on for years to come.
Q: Why do you rely so heavily on featuring women in your work?
A: During this time, society was very masculine and harsh. I wanted to go against that with the complete opposite: femininity, beauty, and sex appeal. They add another element of delicacy and felinity to the floral motif.
Q: Would you ever considering featuring men in your work?
A: Like I said, I don’t want to add to the macho images of men fighting in wars at the time, but I did do some nationalist pieces later in my career: “Poster for the 8th Sokol Festival Prague 1926” in 1925 uses my typical style of organic and floral images, but is not as successful with depictions of strong men instead of dainty women.
Q: What would you say to critics that refer to your work as shallow or simply decorative, like with your series “The Flowers” in 1898?
A: Decorative, perhaps. I believe art should add beauty to the world. I’ve heard critics accuse me of using women as just another form of decoration along with the flowers, but I disagree. My style is best suited for elegant images, not crowded streets or a day in the park like my counterparts. I want to walk the street and see my posters adding beauty to the sidewalk. If art is ugly, who would want it?
Q: Why would you want your artwork to be featured on commercial or household products instead of galleries?
A: I want beauty to be in people’s everyday lives, not just for the rich that can afford it. I believe that art can improve peoples lives and morals. Even if there is no deeper meaning behind a piece, just looking at something stunning can lift one’s spirits and inspire them to add something positive to the world. Why should only a select few people get to experience something amazing?
Q: Why do you think your art is suited for graphic design?
A: Although my pieces are very ornamental and detailed, they still feature some very graphic elements, like the bold line work and flat colours. I keep the design elements in mind as I go about creating an illustration, and keep typography in mind. For company products, I always incorporate the company’s name or initials in the background so that the piece is unified.
Q: What kind of products have your designs been featured on?
A: Almost anything! I am most known for my posters and advertisements, but I did a lot of work for perfume bottles and biscuit wrappers. Imitations of my work have also been seen on other household products like tea and soap. My style makes these products stand out on a shelf in the shop, which makes the company happy, thus making me very happy!
Q: Which product do you feel featured your best work?
A: That would have to be a piece i did for JOB cigarette papers. It featured my signature floral motifs and beautiful woman, combined with the smoke of a cigarette. But she’s not just puffing away like a chimney–she appears sensual and alluring, with the smoke and her hair flowing around her. It was so elegant that the viewer would forget that it was for a cigarette company!
Q: Your work was seen everywhere during your time, and even saw its revival during the 1960’s Art Nouveau revival. The style was and still is unique, distinguishable, and of course, beautiful.
“Alphonse Mucha Artist Overview and Analysis”. [Internet]. 2018. TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jen Farren
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ellen Hurst
[Accessed 12 Jan 2018
Foundation, Mucha. “Poster for “Gismonda” – Sarah Bernhardt.” Mucha Foundation, www.muchafoundation.org/gallery/themes/theme/sarah-bernhardt/object/21.
Rowland, Hazel. “More to Mucha than meets the eye – or is there?” Apollo Magazine, 1 Nov. 2016, www.apollo-magazine.com/alphonse-mucha-kelvingrove/.