arts and culturefeatured-art-and-cultureIssue 18

The Father of Art Nouveau


By Anne Marie Bergthold

Mucha, art issue 18“Alphonse Mucha is one of those artists who, for a long time, flew under the radar,” says Lisa McDermott, Director of the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock.


While people might not recognize the name, many will recognize what McDermott describes as “elegant, beautiful, swirling compositions” as the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock premiers a national touring exhibit of over 70 original Mucha works on Sept. 13.

Mucha was a very versatile artist. In addition to his illustrative and graphic design work, for which he is best known, Mucha engaged in portrait painting, architecture, interior design, mural painting, jewelry design, packaging design, and photography.

Mucha achieved his initial success as a commercial artist, working as an illustrator and graphic designer. His posters, advertisements, and packaging designs spread over Paris virtually overnight.

Among the many admirers of Mucha’s work was Parisian actress Sarah Bernhardt. By commissioning posters for her American tour,  Bernhardt helped to popularize Mucha in the United States. Perhaps the most recognizable poster for that tour will be part of the Carnegie Arts Center exhibit.

This exhibit is one that must be experienced in person, with some posters standing over seven feet tall. The exhibit features original lithographs which were produced during the artist’s lifetime, and focuses on the period from 1890 to 1910 – the height of Mucha’s career in Paris. In addition, there are a selection of Mucha’s book covers, sketches, proofs, and paintings on display, all reflecting the style that Mucha pioneered.

“Mucha had a very distinct illustrative style that had a big impact later,” said Nicholas Lavar, Intern at the Carnegie Arts Center.

Mucha is credited as being the creator of the Art Nouveau style. McDermott considers Mucha’s work “part of a contemporary vocabulary.” Art Nouveau forms its own distinctive branch on the contemporary art timeline.

Art Noveau led to Art Deco, which featured hard edges and was a sharp contrast to the organic forms emphasized in the Nouveau  style. This was followed by Cubism, which ushered in abstraction, the pinnacle of the Modern movement.

The Art Noveau aesthetic of elegant curves, organic shapes, and ethereal forms fell out of fashion until it was embraced by the Psychedelic movement of the 1960s. While the color palette of the Psychedelic posters is dramatically different, the influence of Mucha’s organic motifs and fluid lines is undeniable.

In honor of this extraordinary exhibit, the Carnegie Arts Center’s largest fundraising event of the year will transport guests back to turn-ofthe- century Paris. The Annual Fall Gala on the evening of Sept. 12 will feature a Parisian dinner, cocktails, can-can dancers, live jazz music by Hot Club Faux Gitane, a live auction, a silent auction, and a preview of the exhibit.

Alphonse Mucha: The Golden Age of Art Nouveau runs Sept. 13 through Jan. 10, 2016, at the Carnegie Arts Center, 250 N. Broadway Ave., Turlock.

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