This small museum is dedicated to the work of Alphonse Mucha, a master and pioneer of Art Nouveau.
You’ve probably seen the work of Alphonse Mucha, even if you don’t recognize the name.
Mucha was a Czech painter born in 1860 who worked in and helped define the Art Nouveau style. It’s the kind of style I associate with old posters, the Belle Epoch, and Paris — elegant and classic, but also organic and curvy.
After spending his early years in his home of Moravia and later in Vienna, Mucha moved to Paris in 1887. While there, he won a job making a poster that featured actress Sarah Bernhardt. That job earned him longer a contract, leading to a wealth of highly stylized posters. It also helped popularize what was initially called the “Mucha style.”
The name of the style eventually evolved to Art Nouveau, but Mucha’s influence was already established, inspiring other painters as well as later revivals in the 20th Century. Today, Art Nouveau is inexorably tied to popular conceptions of Paris, which used the style’s designs in everything from architecture to the famous subway entrances.
The image below shows a Mucha interior at Paris’ Carnavalet Museum.
Mucha later received even more attention when his work was featured at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. In his later years, he spent time working on the Slav Epic, a series of paintings about his people.
Which brings us to Prague’s Mucha Museum. Though the museum isn’t huge, it is highly rewarding; Mucha’s work is both pleasurable to see — it’s filled with singularly radiant colors, exudes late 1900s atmosphere, etc. — and there’s no better place to take in a lot of it at once.
The museum has on display the Slav Epic, as well as posters and oil paintings. It touts itself as showing off the “whole range of Mucha’s artistic aspirations, from the personal to the prophetic.”
My visit to Prague was not lengthy, but the thing that lingers the most is Mucha and, consequently, what I learned about him at the museum; every time I see the flowing lines and organic style of Art Nouveau, I now know that I’m seeing something in Mucha’s artistic lineage.
If you go:
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It seems to have two websites; one affiliated with the Mucha Foundation, and another standalone site. Neither has a lot of information and I can’t remember what admission cost us, but it wasn’t particularly expensive.
— Jim Dalrymple II