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Alfons Mucha

Alfons Mucha (July 24, 1860 - July 14, 1939) was a Czech painter and decorative artist. His name is also sometimes rendered in English as Alphonse Mucha. Mucha was perhaps the most defining artist of the Art Nouveau style.

Alfons Maria Mucha was born in the town of Ivancice[?], Moravia (now in Czechia, then part of the Austrian Empire). His abilities as a singer allowed him to continue his education through high-school in the Moravian capital of Brno, however drawing had been his first love since childhood. He worked at what decorative painting jobs he could in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery, then in 1879 moved to Vienna to work for a leading Viennese theatrical design company, while informally furthering his artistic education on the side. When a fire destroyed his employer's business in 1881 he returned to Czechia doing freelance decorative and portrait painting. Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov hired Mucha to decorate Hrusovany Emmahof Castle with murals, and was so impressed that he agreed to sponsor Mucha to get formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.

Mucha moved to Paris in 1887, continuing his studies at the Académie Julian and Academie Colarossi[?] while producing magazine and advertising illustrations on the side. In 1894 he was hired to produce the artwork for a lithographed poster advertising Sarah Bernhardt at the Theatre de la Renaissance; Mucha's lush stylized illustration won him fame and numerous commissions.

Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, and advertisements in what came to be known as the Art Nouveau Style. Mucha's works frequently featured beautiful healthy young women in flowing vaguely Neoclassical looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind the women's heads. His style soon came to be much imitated, though seldom so beautifully and artistically as the work of Mucha himself.

Mucha went to the USA from 1906-1910, then returned to Czechia and settled in Prague. He decorated the Theater of Fine Arts and other landmarks of the city. When Czechoslovakia won its independence after the First World War, Mucha designed the new postage stamps, banknotes, and other government documents for the new nation. He spent years working on what he considered his masterpiece, The Slav Epic, a series of huge paintings depicting the history of the Slavic peoples, unveiled in Prague in 1928.

He died in Prague July 14, 1939.

By the time of his death Mucha's style was already considered outdated and old fashioned, but interest in his beautiful art revived first in the 1960s, and continues to experience periodic revivals of interest and influence on contemporary illustrators. Much of the interest in Mucha's work can be attributed to his son, author Jiří Mucha, who wrote extensively about his father and devoted much of his life to bringing attention to his father's art.

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