Alphonse Mucha: In Quest of Beauty, Glasgow

by Matthew Innis |


Czech-born Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939) is one of the most celebrated artists of the fin-de-siècle, and a founding figure in the development of Art Nouveau. He rose to international fame incredibly quickly, mainly with his elegant designs for decorative panels, and stunning advertising posters, including those designed for actress Sarah Bernhardt, the greatest stage personality of her era and an influential figure in Mucha’s life. Perhaps his poster Gismonda, designed in 1895 for Bernhardt, was the key to his rapid rise. It caused a sensation in Paris, with its unusually tall format, restrained colours and elegantly flowing outlines. Within a year of its appearance, ‘Le style Mucha’ became synonymous with the phenomenon that was becoming Art Nouveau.

Alphonse Mucha: In Quest of Beauty explores the work of the artist, through the theme of beauty, which was the core principle underlying his artistic philosophy, whilst also highlighting his contribution to the Art Nouveau style. The exhibition also recognises the fact that Mucha considered himself a painter, and shows the way his work changed as he came to embrace painting more exclusively, and how he sought to develop a Modern Czech style following his return to his native Czechoslovakia.

Like artists of the British Arts and Crafts movement, it was Mucha’s belief that beautiful works of art should improve the quality of peoples lives. He wrote:

‘I was happy to be involved in art for the people and not for private drawing rooms. It was inexpensive, accessible to the general public, and it found a home in poor families as well as in more affluent circles.’

The show includes over 65 works drawn primarily from the collection of the Mucha Trust, focusing on drawings, paintings, photographs and iconic posters. Alongside these extraordinary works are masterpieces by artists such as Larche, Lalique Fouquet and Gallé, from the Sainsbury Centre’s own renowned Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau. These latter works provide a context for Mucha, and explain the extraordinary flourishing of the decorative arts in the period.

Alphonse Mucha: In Quest of Beauty will open on the 8 October 2016 at the at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. Following on from very successful exhibitions at the Russell-Cotes Museum in Bournemouth and the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is the third venue in our UK tour.

The exhibition makes links between Mucha’s work and philosophy and key works from the Aesthetic movement held in British collections. Featuring works mainly from Mucha’s Paris period, it examines how le style Mucha evolved and became synonymous with the international Art Nouveau style. It also looks at how his artistic philosophy is reflected on the development of his work beyond the ‘Art Nouveau’ period, with examples of works produced after his return to the Czech lands in 1910.

Objects from Glasgow Museums’ collection have been carefully selected to accompany the artworks by Mucha. Paintings and posters by artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Duncan, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his Glasgow Style contemporaries demonstrate the interchange of artistic ideas between Scotland, the rest of the UK, and continental Europe.

Where: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow (SCT, UK)

When: October 6, 2016 – February 19, 2017

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