The Czech artist Alphonse Mucha was one of the most prominent exponents of the Art Nouveau. This style of art was most prominent from 1890 to 1910, inspired by natural forms and structures and is often regarded as a reaction to the academic art of the 19th century. Other known names for Art Nouveau are Jugendstil (in Germany), Secession (in Austria-Hungary) or Modernisme (in Catalonia, Spain). Many achievments and styles developed and used during the Art Nouveau were absolutely formative for contemporary design. Elements and characteristics of Mucha’s illustrative work can still be found in today’s designs of print advertisings, Japanese Mangas or various record artworks, just to name a few examples. Just take a look at the work of the renowned cover artist John Dyer Baizley – the influence of Alphonse Mucha is really obvious.
Mucha was born on July 24th 1860 in Ivančice, Moravia, a town which is located in the present Czech Republic but was part of Habsburg Austria back than. From 1879 to 1881 he worked for a major theatrical design company in Vienna. Later he was hired by Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov to decorate Hrušovany Emmahof Castle. Khuen was impressed enough by Mucha’s skills that he agreed to sponsor Mucha’s formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. Mucha later continued his studies in Paris in 1887 at Académie Julian and Académie Colarossi. Sarah Bernhardt – at that time one of the most famous actresses not only on Paris but the whole world. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster, and on 1 January 1895 the advertisement for the play Gismonda was posted in Paris, where it attracted a lot of attention. Mucha and his work didn’t just become famous effectively over night, Bernhardt herself was so impressed with this first poster (and the positive reactions) that she began a six-year contract with Mucha.
Mucha might be best known for his posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, but he also designed jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets. Mucha was furthermore a very talented painter. He considered The Slav Epic – a series of 20 really huge paintings depicting the history of the Czech and the Slavic people – his life’s fine art masterpiece.
Mucha died in Prague on 14 July 1939, due to lung infection, shortly after he was released from arrestment by the Nazis who had moved into Czechoslovakia earlier that year.
All information about Alphonse Mucha and Art Nouveau taken from Wikipedia – for further knowlegde about Mucha’s life and work it’s a good starting point.