Museum Stories

Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau Visionary at North Carolina Museum of Art

Nicole Ganbold 20 September 2021 min Read

Czech-born Alphonse Mucha was one of the most celebrated artists in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. As an influential force behind the Art Nouveau movement, he created sumptuous posters and advertising—promoting such everyday products as cigarette papers and tea biscuits—that transformed the streets of Paris into open-air art exhibitions. Opening on October 23, Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau Visionary at the North Carolina Museum of Art celebrates the Mucha Trust Collection’s first major U.S. tour in 20 years.

Alphonse Mucha, Self-portrait with posters for Sarah Bernhardt at the studio in rue du Val-de-Grâce, Paris, circa 1901, Mucha Trust Collection, Prague, Czech Republic. © 2021 Mucha Trust. Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.
Alphonse Mucha, Self-portrait with posters for Sarah Bernhardt at the studio in rue du Val-de-Grâce, Paris, circa 1901, Mucha Trust Collection, Prague, Czech Republic. © 2021 Mucha Trust. Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.

He is best known for his graphic work, such as theater posters for superstar actress Sarah Bernhardt and decorative panels and advertisements featuring graceful women.

Alphonse Mucha, La Dame aux Camélias with Sarah Bernhardt, 1896, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA.
Alphonse Mucha, La Dame aux Camélias with Sarah Bernhardt, 1896, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA.

Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau Visionary

The exhibition Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau Visionary, co-organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Mucha Foundation, features a vast array of posters, illustrations, ornamental objects, and rarely seen sculpture, photography, and self-portraits—all showcasing Mucha’s distinctive style of harmonious compositions, sinuous forms, organic motifs, and lush color palettes. Additional works from the NCMA’s collection highlight Mucha’s influence in America and his close friendship with French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Alphonse Mucha, Nude on a Rock, 1899, bronze, Mucha Trust Collection, Prague, Czech Republic. © 2021 Mucha Trust. Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.
Alphonse Mucha, Nude on a Rock, 1899, bronze, Mucha Trust Collection, Prague, Czech Republic. © 2021 Mucha Trust. Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.

Auguste Rodin, The Thinker, modeled 1880, reduced in 1903, this example cast at a later date, bronze cast from The Gates of Hell, gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation in honor of Governor Michael F. Easley and Mary P. Easley, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC, USA. Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.
Auguste Rodin, The Thinker, modeled 1880, reduced in 1903, this example cast at a later date, bronze cast from The Gates of Hell, gift of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation in honor of Governor Michael F. Easley and Mary P. Easley, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC, USA. Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.

Despite the powerful impact of Mucha’s style, his ideas behind its development are less well known. Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau Visionary draws on the latest research to examine the theoretical aspects of his style, which evolved as a language for communication with the wider public. Featuring some 100 objects from the Mucha Trust collection, including rarely seen works from the artist’s family, the exhibition looks at Mucha’s contributions to the Art Nouveau style and how he later used his visual language to express his vision for an independent Czechoslovak nation.

Alphonse Mucha, Daydream (Rêverie), 1897, Mucha Trust Collection, Prague, Czech Republic. © 2021 Mucha Trust. Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.
Alphonse Mucha, Daydream (Rêverie), 1897, Mucha Trust Collection, Prague, Czech Republic. © 2021 Mucha Trust. Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.

If you happen to be in North Carolina this autumn make sure to visit this exhibition! The show is opening October 23, 2021, and on view through January 23, 2022.