Mucha the Teacher

Mucha's textbook for arts & crafts students

Rêverie (1897) by Alphonse MuchaCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro

In 1896, Mucha and his printer Champenois embarked upon a new enterprise – decorative panels (panneaux décoratifs).

These were posters primarily without text, designed purely for aesthetic appreciation.

Decorative Documents (2020) by Alphonse MuchaCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro

Produced in large quantities, these panels were available to the wider public, becoming an alternative form of art. 

On the panels, Mucha later wrote:

I was happy to be involved in art for the people and not for private drawing rooms. It was inexpensive, accessible to the general public, and it found a home in poor families as well as in more affluent circles.

The Arts – Painting (1899) by Alphonse MuchaCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro

It was Mucha’s belief that beautiful works of art would elevate the morale of the people and improve the quality of their lives.

Therefore, he also believed that it was his mission as an artist to promote art for ordinary people.

Combinaisons Ornementales se Multipliant à l'Infini à L'Aide du Miroir (1901) by Alphonse MuchaCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro

‘Le Style Mucha’

For Mucha, decorative panels were an ideal mean to realise his aspiration, and his design formulas, popularly known as ‘le style Mucha’, became a visual language to communicate his message of beauty to the wider public. 

Combinaisons Ornementales se Multipliant à l'Infini à L'Aide du Miroir (1901) by Alphonse MuchaCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro

This story looks at two strands of Mucha’s work: decorative panels, which served as vehicles to express Mucha’s artistic ideals; and didactic publications such as Documents décoratifs (1902)...

...which contributed to the dissemination of le style Mucha across Europe and to the other side of the Atlantic. 

Peonies (1897 - 1898) by Alphonse MuchaNational Galleries Scotland: Modern

Documents Décoratifs

'Documents Décoratifs' was published in Paris in 1902 by the Librairie Centrale des Beaux-Arts as a folio of 72 plates presenting Mucha's decorative work. Mucha conceived this as a handbook for craftsmen and manufacturers, showing the analytical study of forms from nature and their practical use. 

These design samples, ranging from cutlery, tableware and jewellery to furniture, light fittings and wallpaper, demonstrate his boundless imagination to create new forms from motifs from nature and from the human body.

Combinaisons Ornementales se Multipliant à l'Infini à L'Aide du Miroir (1901) by Alphonse MuchaCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro

These design samples, ranging from cutlery, tableware and jewellery to furniture, light fittings and wallpaper, demonstrate his boundless imagination to creat new forms from motifs from nature and from the human body.

Mucha's Documents Décoratifs was considered an invaluable textbook for arts and crafts students and was used by art schools in France and elsewhere in Europe as well as in Russia. 

Thus, the publication fulfilled Mucha's ideal - the creation of art for the benefit of society.

Combinaisons Ornementales se Multipliant à l'Infini à L'Aide du Miroir (1901) by Alphonse MuchaCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro

'Combinaisons Ornamentales'

... was published in 1901 as a pattern book for designers, offering a variety of ornamental motifs featuring plants, birds, insects and other natural forms. Mucha contributed eleven plates to the book. 

The motifs in 'Combinaisons Ornementales' were designed to be viewed using two joined mirrors. The intended effect would infinitely multiply the designs, like a kaleidoscope.

Figures Décoratives: drawing for Plate 25 (1904) by Alphonse MuchaCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro

'Figures Décoratives': Drawing for Plate 25

'Figures décoratives' was published in 1905 to follow on and complement Mucha’s earlier design handbook Documents décoratifs. 

It focuses on the use of the human body as a source of decorative motifs.

The folio of 40 plates explored the figures of women, girls and children in a variety of poses...

...integrated into circles, triangles, rectangles and many other geometric forms.

Menina segurando flores: estudo para painel decorativo (1900)Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro

'Girl holding flowers': study for a decorative panel | pencil on paper, 1900

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