This is a lovely postcard someone brought me from the Mucha Museum in Prague.
colour lithograph, 1911
An explanatory note from the Mucha Foundation:
“Oskar Nedbal’s ballet-pantomime, Princess Hyacinth, premiered in 1911 at the National Theatre, Prague, with libretto by Ladislav Novák.
Mucha’s poster advertising the performance features the portrait of the popular actress Andula Sedláčková, who starred in the title role.
A village blacksmith dreams that his daughter becomes the Princess Hyacinth and that she is abducted by a sorcerer. Mucha makes reference to the plot by incorporating hearts, the blacksmith’s tools, a crown and instruments of sorcery. A hyacinth motif is used throughout the decorative details.”
There is something about this period, the period before WW I and the Spanish flu decimated the age. It is full of promise and hope, all the idealism and art, the emphasis on handwork and natural forms that is still so appealing.
When I first became interested in Art Nouveau in 1998, I remember being bowled over by Mucha’s work. I bought a CD of Mucha clip art, I had a pen pal who got a large tattoo of a Mucha work on her back, and then everybody seemed to be talking about Art Nouveau and Mucha. I even made my husband a chocolate Bundt-style cake decorated with California poppies and other plants from the garden which I called the “Mucha Wonder” cake, for his birthday in 1999. I never got a picture of it because my camera broke and I lost all that roll of film.
I supposed I reached saturation point and tend to find Mucha overdone today; he’s everywhere. I used the word “discernment” on this postcard, because it reminds me to be discerning about friends, particularly on the Internet, and discerning about art and the influences I fall prey to. That was not a good time in my life and Mucha became wrapped up in that.
However, I came across a reproduction of a preliminary study he did circa 1901-2 that is just brilliant and renewed my respect for him. This is from the book Sketch Book for the Artist by Sarah Simblet, one of my favourite books, filled with her own art and studies in art history.
This is drawn in pencil, the plates were drawn with a compass, and then watercolour washes and lines of white gouache have been added. The shades and highlights, the shininess of the spoons, the delicate patterns on the plates and the soup tureen are beautiful, and made more lovely by his skill as an illustrator and the background paper colour.
The subsequent print was for Plate 59 from Documents Decoratifs which was a style book Mucha published at the apex of his fame. It depicted designs for furniture, tableware (my favourites), jewellery, wallpaper and stained glass among more complicated themes of art, including some botanicals. Dover does a nice reproduction of this book.
You could do worse than Mucha in the morning, perhaps with a cup of tea from a nice cup with Art Nouveau motifs, and a silver spoon on the saucer.
Watching the hummingbird on the Philadelphia Mock Orange by the garage, you look at the light in the sky and think of theatre lights on a long-ago stage, and embroidered cloaks and dresses with botanical designs inspired by Mucha.