Alphonse Mucha
The Spirit of Art Nouveau
9 Jun – 31 Aug 2006
ALPHONSE MUCHA - The Spirit of Art Nouveau
Turku Art Museum, 9.6.-31.8.2006


During the summer of 2006, the Turku Art Museum will present an exhibition of the Czech artist Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), one of the most brilliant and prolific masters of the Art Nouveau. The National Romantic setting of the museum offers a unique opportunity for European Art Nouveau to meet with Finnish Jugend Stil. This major exhibition has been organised in collaboration with the Mucha Foundation.

Alphonse Mucha came from South Moravia in what is nowadays the Czech Republic. After a short period working as a scene painter in Vienna, he left to study art at the Munich Academy of Art. He moved to Paris in 1887 to study first at the Académie Julian and the following year at the Académie Colarossi. As a still unknown artist he made his living by illustrating magazines and books. His break-through came in 1894, with a contract to design posters for the actress Sarah Bernhardt. In them, the great diva, ‘the divine Sarah’, appears in the costumes of Gismonda and the femme fatal La Dame aux Camélias. Overnight Mucha became a famous and much sought-after artist.  

The decorativeness, endlessly entwined ribbons and curves, and graceful female forms of Mucha’s art never fails to enchain. Le Style Mucha is elegant and fluent. It tells of the temptations of early 20th century Parisian life and the beginnings of consumerism. Alphonse Mucha was a pioneer of the ad-vertising image. He became highly specialised in the graphic arts, producing posters, packagings and home interior decorative motifs.  As a typical Art Nouveau artist, Mucha strived towards the creation of complete interiors and milieus.

Mucha’s works are imbued with the esoteric mysticism of fin-de-siècle Symbolism. The artist used the female form to personify flowers as well as the times of the day and the seasons of the year, Mucha promoted the ideals of the period by producing a model books, Documents Décoratifs, for decorative painters and craftsmen. He was an avid photographer of his models and family, using the camera as an aid in composing new pictures.

Alphonse Mucha is a respected Czech national artist. In 1910, the patriotic Mucha returned to his native land. In his homeland, he dedicated his art to the cause of national independence. When the Republic of Czechoslovakia came into being in 1918, Mucha designed uniforms, postage stamps and banknotes for the new nation. He also began painting a 20-part series of monumental murals, the Slav Epic, depicting the beginnings of the Slavs and the history of the Czechs. These are on display at the castle of Moravský Krumlov near the Austrian border. Mucha’s health rapidly deteriorated following the humiliation of the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and he died in 1939.

The exhibition at the Turku Art Museum presents the seminal paintings, posters, illustrations and miniature sculptures of Alphonse Mucha, as well as the unique luxurious pieces of jewellery he designed for his wife. It consists of some two hundred works from the Mucha family’s collection now in the Mucha Foundation. The Slav Epic series of panels is shown as a slide show and there is also a non-stop 30-minute video on Mucha’s art. A richly illustrated book on Mucha’s work is published in English, Finnish and Swedish.

Turun taidemuseo, Aurakatu 26, 20100 Turku, Puh. 02 2627 100. © 2014