We first encountered Mucha in our college days in the 60's as they were the backdrop for many posters advertising love ins, be ins, acid rock music festivals and the like. We didn't know it was Mucha that was being copied but we liked it.
Backtrack to About Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to go into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Paris, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on 1 January 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou was posted in the city, where it attracted much attention. Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she began a six-year contract with Mucha.
Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially The Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau (French for "new art"). Mucha's works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors. Mucha's style was given international exposure by the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris, of which Mucha said, "I think [the Exposition Universelle] made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts." He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated with decorating the Austrian Pavilion. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. The Art Nouveau style however, was one that Mucha attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more; hence his frustration at the fame he gained by hiscommercial art, when he most wanted to concentrate on more artistic projects.
Mucha saw a resurgence in interest in his art during the late 60's wherein his art was used to advertise love ins, be-ins, acid rock festivals, light show concerts, and other assorted goings on during the hippy phase of the late 60's and early 70's. His art actually has never lost favor and is still sought after for his posters and designs for jewelry, vases, cookware, and housing decor.
subject matter - French poster art circa 1900.