Hôtel de Caumont
Mucha Maître de l’Art Nouveau
Organised in collaboration with the Mucha Foundation, the Hôtel de Caumont is this year devoting its winter exhibition to the great master of Art Nouveau, Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939). This prolific and visionary artist revolutionised his contemporaries perception of art by applying his characteristic aesthetics to many fields, such as posters, advertising, interior decoration, and Belle Époque theatre. Via around 120 works originating from the Mucha Family Collection, the exhibition highlights all the splendour and evolution of Mucha’s style, with its blend of mysticism, symbolism, Slavic identity and beauty.
Born in Ivančice (now in the Czech Republic), Alphonse Mucha grew up in a Slavic province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; he arrived in Paris in 1887, after receiving formal training at the Academy of Fine Arts of Munich. It was during these years of his youth that he developed a committed political awareness that focused in particular on the affirmation of the identity of the Slavic peoples. In Paris, where fin-de-siècle mysticism fascinated the artistic circles, Alphonse Mucha became the great poster designer that we know, thanks to his providential encounter with the ‘divine’ Sarah Bernhardt. The Mucha phenomenon was hailed by the ‘tout Paris’ and spread internationally, and he eventually became a major figure of Art Nouveau aesthetics, which were characteristic of the period. However, the artist’s real ambitions were very different: Alphonse Mucha, who saw himself as a more committed artist, longed to create more noble works in order to put his art at the service of universal brotherhood. An active Freemason and an ardent supporter of the Slavic people, Mucha spent his life developing an art that aspired to be ‘liberating’, giving his work a Czech, Slavic, and humanistic flavour.
The aim if this exhibition is to show, not only how Mucha’s oeuvre, which combined different aesthetics, was fundamentally committed to a cause, and also how the use and appeal of beauty are tinged with symbolism and mysticism throughout his career. Mucha, for whom art is universal, tried to assert his artistic intentions in his work. In addition of the evolution of Mucha’s graphic style and the mystical inspiration of his visual language, the exhibition focuses on the artist’s committed thinking as a constituent element of his works, which are characterised by beauty and harmony.
Next to the most popular works of the time, showing that Mucha was one of the leading representatives of Art Nouveau (such as the famous advertising posters, including those produced for Sarah Bernhardt, and the famous decorative panels), you will be able to admire the artist’s paintings, which have rarely been shown, through a symbolist and allegorical interpretation. The exhibition also reveals his little-known photographic work, both in his studio in fin-de-siècle Paris and also through the documentary photographs and mises en scène that he produced as part of his research for his series of monumental paintings honouring the history of his people, The Slav Epic.