Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Alphonse Mucha and the Art Nouveau Movement

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Alphonse Mucha image
courtesy wikipedia.org
From 1880 through 1915 the United States and parts of Western Europe experienced the birth of Art Nouveau in art and architecture. Characterized by curvy lines and organic forms found in nature, the Art Nouveau movement was a reaction to mass-produced, tainted designs of the Victorian period (1837 - 1901). The aesthetic draws on natural materials, forms, and colors of the Arts and Crafts Movement (circa 1860 - 1930).

No figure in history best embodies the design aesthetic and spirit of Art Nouveau better than Alphonse Mucha (1860 - 1939). Mucha was a Czech painter and illustrator that produced all types of everyday prints, advertisements, and postcards during the era. His most famous series, The Seasons,1896, featured four female portraits representing the four seasons. This series captured the beauty of nature and the human form using free flowing lines, natural colors, and delicate forms - the core aesthetics of the Art Nouveau Movement. Unlike the square, simplified forms typically used to describe Arts and Crafts design, these sultry figures were the sexy side of design reform in the era.

Today, the Art Nouveau movement is often synonymous with the Arts and Crafts Movement, but its organic forms, lack of symmetry, and softness set it apart from its heavy, rectilinear counterpart. With Mucha's ability to translate the Art Nouveau style into everyday imagery, Art Nouveau can be cherished as a stand alone aesthetic that lends itself to American art, architecture, and design during an era of true design reform.

Alphonse Mucha, The Seasons, 1896 image courtesy muchafoundation.org
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