Alphons Mucha (1860 - 1939)

By Italia Liberty

Alphonse Mucha was one of the most significant representatives of Art Nouveau. His style makes him "advocate" of a new communicative language, of an innovative and powerful visual art: the feminine images of his posters, strongly sensual and full of eroticism, within precise graphic compositions arrive and depopulate in all classes and the environments of the society of the time and, still today, at the sight of today's very modern advertising posters, it is possible to see the artistic gene of Mucha. The "Mucha style" has made it unique, recognizable, modernist, an eternal symbol of Art Nouveau.The foundations of Alphonse Mucha's art are great idealism, love and the strong attachment to his homeland. He dreamed of a free Slavic state, free from the Habsburgs, free from the exploiting colonialism of foreign governments and above all free to take strength, energy and solidarity from himself, from his own traditions and identity. Here is the visionary Mucha who creates the most significant work: "The Slavic Epic".Alphonse Mucha was initiated in Paris in 1898 and later became one of the promoters of the revival of Freemasonry in Czechoslovakia, founding in 1919 a lodge, in the Czech language, "Jan Amos Komensky" in the East of Prague and later held the position of Grand Master of the Czechoslovak Grand Lodge.In 1923 he assumed the position of Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of R.S.A.A.Masonic symbolism clearly emerges in the illustrated volume, Le Pater, published in Paris in 1899. Numerous Masonic jewels, medals and diplomas are now preserved in the Prague museum that bears his name.

The artist at the Liberty Museum

Some lithographs by the artist Mucha can be used inside the first Museum of Liberty in Italy, inaugurated on 18 May 2020 on the Google Arts & Culture online platform in the context of the International Museum Day (IMD). There are masterpieces collected from various private collections, among them also some plates owned by the Director of the Museum, Andrea Speziale: "The four seasons", "Le Mois" and "Le Pater". There are also other works by the Czech artist: postcards, posters and drawings.

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Inside the magazine "L'Estampe Moderne" some works by Alphonse Mucha are reported.

LE PATER

Although not well known, the commentary illustrated to the Our Father of Mucha is one of his most profound and marvelous works.In 1900 Mucha was in Paris, and although he enjoyed moderate success, he was also fed up with committing his art only to commercial orders such as advertisements and posters. He felt a need for elevation, for spiritual impetus, and so he decided to undertake the ambitious project of illustrating and commenting on the most important Christian prayer.The artist divided the Christian prayer into seven sentences, expanding each into three further parts: a wonderful illustrated calligraphy, a short handwritten commentary in Gothic handwriting by Mucha himself, and another page filled with an illustration in a more style classic.Everything was published in Paris, in a color booklet of which only 510 copies were printed.The commentary and symbolic imagery betray the influence of Freemasonry, with which the artist came into contact precisely in Paris; but thank God the patchy religious and aesthetic syncretism of those environments does not disturb Mucha's art or thought. Instead, the result is an original interpretation of prayer, alive and life-giving, because it purifies it from the incrustations of custom, as only art can do.The seven circles on the left are a reference to the following seven parts, a sort of synthesis condensed into a highly symbolic image.

Our Father who art in heaven

In the bosom of the sleeping matter, man wakes up little by little, until he laboriously reaches consciousness. To get up there, towards the Ideal, it is necessary for his soul to orient himself, to unlock himself, to abandon the region of darkness in which his body holds him.The man of goodwill slowly advances towards this light that he perceives in the distance, and together with him, the crowd of beings, his fellow beings, rises. All of them are his brothers - children of the same family, destined for the same future, and in an impulse of filial love, he calls this Light that looks at them all: "Our Father who art in heaven".

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Hallowed be your name

Having come out of the abyss of the earth and arrived before this Light which is Divinity, man wants to offer God the best of what he possesses and brings up together with the smoke of the sacrifice that gives him his feelings of adoration and glorification.All the prostrate multitudes add to the material fire that rises the inner flame that emerges from their unconscious hearts.Collected in benevolent compassion, Divinity contemplates this first step towards the awakening of lucidity.

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Your kingdom come

The Divinity, moved by this constant effort that rises towards it, brings down a first ray of Truth that comes to illuminate the abyss in which men struggle.Surprised at the beginning by this light that penetrates their souls, until then immersed in the darkness of matter, they approach, driven by a holy curiosity, and they feel dominated by an unknown Force that reigns over them now: Love.

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Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth

Knowing now his divine Father and the love that unites him to him, man learns to trust the benevolent Power that controls his destiny.In a complete abandonment of himself, he accepts both good and evil from God, with the same resignation, already knowing that all the events of life are controlled by the wisdom of a higher Will.

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Give us our daily bread today

He admires this wisdom of Providence which satisfies, every day, all the needs of the beings who live around him. He sees that rivers of milk come out of the bosom of the earth to which man's thirst is drunk, while Divine Goodness gives him the spiritual bread of Love that comes to satisfy the hunger of his soul.

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Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors

Having the nourishment of material and spiritual life, man therefore turns his Conscience towards his fellow men and must learn to transfer the inner Love that animates him to his neighbor.Mastering the evil force of his primitive instincts, thanks to the Will of his eternal Educator he must also understand and follow the great law of Forgiveness.

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And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

In the absolute consciousness of himself, man now advances within the ray of clarity glimpsed towards the IDE

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Le Pater is an illustrated edition of The Lord's Prayer created by Mucha. Published in Paris on December 20, 1899 at the end of the old century, it was to be Mucha's message to future generations on the progress of humanity. Through archetypal Christian prayer, he wished to offer man the way to reach the divine Ideal, the highest state in the spiritual world.

Mucha conceived this project at a turning point in his career. According to his account, Mucha at that time was increasingly dissatisfied with the incessant trade commissions and wanted an artistic work with a higher mission. He was also influenced by his long-standing interest in spiritualism since the early 1890s and, above all, by Masonic philosophy. In January 1898, almost two years before the publication of Le Pater, Mucha was initiated as an apprentice at the Loggia in Paris Les Inseparables du Progrès and after the independence of his native land he would become the highest representative of the Masons of Czechoslovakia. Mucha's masonry was the result of his spiritualism - the search for a deeper truth beyond the visible world. Through his spiritual journey, Mucha came to believe that the three virtues - Beauty, Truth and Love - were humanity's "milestones" and that spreading this message through his art would contribute to the improvement of human life and, finally, to the progress of humanity. To visualize his vision, Mucha analyzed each of the seven verses of the model Christian prayer and reconstructed it in a three-page series. The first page of each set, in color, is the relevant verse in French and Latin, framed by a border sumptuously decorated with flowers and a symbolic female figure. The second page, also in color, is the text of Mucha, who interprets the verse and decorated with floral motifs. The third monochromatic page, printed in photography, contains a full-page allegorical drawing illustrating Mucha's philosophical response to the verse. On all pages, Mucha's designs present an abundance of Masonic symbols. The result was an exquisite book published in an edition of 510 copies. Le Pater was Mucha's first manifest as an artist-philosopher and considered the book to be his best work. In 1900 Mucha exhibited the book and preparatory drawings at the Paris International Exhibition and was deeply gratified when the illustrations attracted the attention of Emperor Franz Joseph I.

Credits: Story

Suggested Bibliography:
Andrea Speziali, “The World of Art Nouveau”, CartaCanta editore, Forlì 2017.
“Femmes 1900. La donna Art Nouveau” (a cura di Maurizio Lorenzo), ProPordenone, 2019.
“I 100 poster più belli dell’Art Nouveau” (a cura di Andrea Speziali), Capire Edizioni, Forlì 2019.

www.italialiberty.it/alfonsmucha

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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