Alphonse Mucha (1860–1939) was one of the most celebrated artists in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris. As an influential force behind the Art Nouveau movement, he created sumptuous posters and advertisements—promoting such everyday products as cigarette papers and tea biscuits—that transformed the streets of Paris into open-air art exhibitions.
The Speed Art Museum is pleased to announce it will be hosting the exhibition Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau Visionary, which will open October 21 and will run through January 22, 2023.
Born in what is now the Czech Republic, Mucha (pronounced Moo-kha) is best known for his graphic work, such as theater posters for superstar actress Sarah Bernhardt and decorative panels and advertisements featuring flowing arabesque lines and graceful women.
“Mucha developed a distinctive approach to design characterized by harmonious compositions, sinuous forms, organic lines, and muted colors, which became synonymous with the decorative style called Art Nouveau,” Kim Spence, the Speed’s Curator of Works on Paper, said.
The Speed is one of only two museums in the United States to host this exhibition, highlighting 124 pieces from the Mucha Trust, which comprises the Mucha Family Collection. The exhibition features an array of works in various media representing the wide-ranging scope of the artist’s production, including his iconic theatrical and advertising posters, ornamental objects, sculptures, and photographs. Also included are rarely exhibited preparatory drawings and the artist’s lesser-known publications Decorative Documents and Decorative Figures (design manuals for young artists) and his deeply spiritual visual interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, Le Pater.
“Mucha was so much more than a designer of advertising posters with commercial purpose. From a cultural perspective, Mucha held deepfelt convictions that art could be used as a catalyst to improve society and that art should be accessible for everyone,” Speed Director Raphaela Platow said. “The artist relied on posters that could be multiplied by the thousands to move his works from museums and galleries into the public sphere. With his posters, Mucha knew that the streets of Paris would be transformed into a public art display where everyone could enjoy and be inspired by them.”
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.
“We have never exhibited the Mucha Family Collection in Kentucky before and we are thrilled to be able to work with a Museum as highly regarded around the world as the Speed,” the artist’s grandson John Mucha, President of the Mucha Foundation, said. “Whether they are seasoned Mucha enthusiasts or coming to his work for the first time, we hope that the public in Louisville will find this exhibition surprising, stimulating, and challenging. As Raphaela Platow says, my grandfather believed passionately that art should be made easily available to the general public. We hope that with this exhibition we are continuing in his footsteps, and communicating anew the interests, passions, and concerns of his artistic vision.”