Alfons Maria Mucha (or Alphonse Maria Mucha) was a Czech Art Nouveau, or Secession painter and decorative artist. He was a Czechoslovakian Art Nouveau artist who pioneered a sensuous, ornate style replete in stained glass colors, elaborately curving lines and ethereal women.
Alfons Maria Mucha was born in the town of Ivancice, Moravia. His singing abilities allowed him to continue his education through high school in the Moravian capital of Brno, even though drawing had been his first love since childhood. He worked at decorative painting jobs 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.
Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov hired Mucha to decorate Hru?ovany Emmahof Castle with murals, and was impressed enough that he agreed to sponsor Mucha's formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. Mucha moved later in 1887, to Paris and continued his studies at Académie Julian and Academie Colarossi while also producing magazine and advertising illustrations. In 1894, he produced the artwork for a lithographed poster advertising Sarah Bernhardt at the Theatre de la Renaissance. Mucha's lush stylized poster art won him fame and numerous commissions.
Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelery, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what came to be known as the Art Nouveau style. His works frequently featured beautiful healthy young women in flowing vaguely Neoclassical looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. In Prague he decorated the Theater of Fine Arts and other landmarks of the city.
When Czechoslovakia won its independence after World War I, Mucha designed the new postage stamps, banknotes, and other government documents for the new nation. He spent many years working on what he considered his masterpiece, "The Slav Epic" (Slovanská epopej), a series of huge paintings depicting the history of the Slavic peoples, bestowed to the city of Prague in 1928. He had dreamt of completing a series such as this, a celebration of Slavic history, since he was young.
The rising tide of fascism in the late 1930s led to Mucha's works, as well as his Slavic nationalism, being denounced in the press as 'reactionary'. When German troops marched into Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1939, Mucha was arrested by the Gestapo and fell ill with pneumonia. Though eventually released, he never recovered from the strain of this event, or seeing his home invaded and overcome. He died in Prague on July 14 of a lung infection, 1939.
By the time of his death, Mucha's style was considered outdated and old-fashioned. Interest in Mucha's distinctive style experienced a strong revival in the 1960s (with a general interest in Art Nouveau).