A French Art Nouveau "La Plume - Zodiac" lithograph by Alphonse Mucha. With Zodiac, Mucha reaches the full maturity of his style, with every one of his signature design elements in their most fluid and elaborate incarnations. The image was originally published as a calendar by F. Champenois but was quickly bought by La Plume, who began issuing it as a calendar with their own name at the top. The image was a huge success and was ultimately used for a variety of different advertising purposes. This lithograph is discussed in: "Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Posters and Panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1984, pp. 100-102 and pictured in the same volume on p. 103 (var 1).
A pair of French Art Nouveau lithographs, "Dawn and Dusk," by Alphonse Mucha. These two panels, both representing reclining female figures, are among the few horizontal formats produced by Mucha. These two ladies represent the terminal points of the sun''s daily journey. Dawn is represented by a girl removing the coverlet from her nude torso as she looks towards the rising sun. Dusk is a somnolent beauty settling down in her bed under the last rays of the day. Some of the most delicate pastel shadings are used by Mucha to differentiate one from the other. Pictured in: "Alphonse Mucha, The Complete Posters and Panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, G. K. Hall, 1984, page 258-259, plate 70.
A French Art Nouveau lithograph by Alphonse Mucha. An exquisite portrait of Sarah Bernhardt in the role of "La Princesse Lointaine" is used here for publicizing "LU" (Lefévre-Utile) biscuits, with a handwritten testimonial by the actress herself: "Je ne trouve rien de meilleur qu''un petit LU; oh si, deux petits LU." (I haven''t found anything better than a little LU--oh yes, two little LU.) "La Princesse Lointaine" was one of Sarah''s great successes, a play written for her by Edmond Rostand based an old medieval tale, shown for the first time in 1895. She played Melisande, daughter of one of the crusader kings from Tripoli who becomes famous far and wide for her beauty. When word of her charm reaches a French knight, Jofroi, he sets out on a long and exhausting journey at the end of which he dies in ecstasy after having accomplished his goal of seeing her and telling her of his love. The Lefèvre-Utile Company also used other artists to produce posters in this series which featured testimonials by prominent personalities; many were also issued as postcards. The heraldic birds on each corner were appropriated from the heraldic casket of Saint Louis (King Louis IX) on view at the Louvre. A detail from the casket figured in Owen Jones''s seminal work, Grammar of Ornament (1856). The great actress Sarah Bernhardt and artist Alphonse Mucha formed an enduring partnership in 1
894, when he was, by pure chance, selected to design a poster for her. The collaboration launched Mucha''s career. The novelty of these posters'' enchanting stylization and dignified tone made them an immediate collector''s items, often stolen from public display. Though firstan artist, Bernhardt was by necessity a capable, indefatigable businesswoman who powered through numerous ups-and-downs and setbacks. She was famous for her boundless generosity, which led to constant indebtedness and a frenzied work schedule. Here, the two artists combined to create an early form of celebrity endorsement, in this case, for the ever-popular LU Petit Buerre biscuits.Pictured in "Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Posters and Panels" by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, Page 308-309, Plate 86.
A French Art Nouveau lithograph, "Hamlet", by Alphonse Mucha. Mucha designed several posters for the actress Sarah Bernhardt. Here she is shown in the role of Hamlet, performed in her theater in Paris in 1899. In the background is an evocation of the night scene in Elsinore Castle and in the banderole below is an image of the dead Ophelia. Signed in the lower left-hand corner. Hamlet was one of several male roles Bernhardt performed. Shakespeare''s play was adapted in French for her by Eugène Morand and Marcel Schwab. Pictured in "Alphonse Mucha: The complete posters and panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, page 239 (cat. 63).
A pair of French "Byzantine Heads" lithographs by Alphonse Mucha. The mastery evident in creating two archetypes of the female form against a decorative background confirms Mucha''s artistic maturity. Both women, portrayed in profile, have their heads decorated with beautiful jewelry, the richness and oriental nature of which suggested the name Byzantine Heads for the series. The subtle differences in details between the images are worth noticing. This is the first appearance of the perfect form of Mucha''s often-used motif, a circle framing each head interrupted by a strand of hair. With this device, it is as if Mucha''s unreachable beauties have broken the magic border between themselves and their admirers and suggest the possibility that they might, perhaps, meet. (Mucha/Art Nouveau, p. 192). In this version, Mucha added corners filigreed with curves to the original circular designs in order to create the standard rectangular shape of decorative panels. This is the rarest of all variants. Pictured in "Alphonse Mucha, The Complete Posters and Panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, page 167, cat. 40, variant 1.
French Art Nouveau lithograph by Alphonse Mucha titled "Bieres de la Meuse." The central figure''s hair is wreathed with barley stalks, green hops, daisies and poppies, representing both the beer trade and the flowers growing in the Meuse region. Behind her stretch tall trellises festooned with hops. The scarlet poppies and barley are a pairing that stems back to antiquity. As legend has it, Demeter, Greek goddess of harvest, created the poppy to assuage her grief when searching for her daughter Persephone, who had been kidnapped by Hades. Henceforth, Demeter was depicted with wreaths of poppy and barley. Poppies, however, had vastly different connotations for an artist like Mucha. With its ample aesthetic possibilities and narcotic uses, the poppy was one of the most popular motifs for Art Nouveau artists. To farmers, they were a noxious weed to be extirpated, marking the first step in the harvest process. Before the wheat was scythed, poppies were hand pulled. Care was taken so that the seeds did not fall to the ground, thereby exacerbating their problems in the coming harvest season. Pictured in: "Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Posters and Panel", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weil, G.K. Hall & Co., Publishers, Boston, page 127.
A set of four French Art Nouveau lithographs titled Les Saisons ("The Seasons") by Alphonse Mucha. This set is one of three that Mucha designed to represent the four seasons. Here, the seasons are depicted as sumptuous young women with surroundings that symbolize the seasons for which they are allegories. All four of the brilliantly colored panels are signed. Spring is depicted as a beautiful, rosy-cheeked woman with long blonde hair that reaches almost down to her ankles. The contrapposto figure is fashioning a lyre from a verdant green branch, using her luscious golden hair as strings. Songbirds flock to the allegorical figure, adding to the aural aura that this airy piece emits. Summer sits lethargically at the side of a pond, dipping her feet into the cool water and resting on a branch of ivy. She wears a crown of crimson poppies and her thin white robes appear to be falling off with the heat of the summer day. Autumn''s hair is a deep, rich, reddish-brown, which echoes the colors of the dried leaves in the trees and on the ground below her. The allegorical figure is not looking directly into the viewer''s eyes, but rather to the bountiful grapes she holds in her hand. She is crowned with the fall-blooming flower, chrysanthemum. Winter is wrapped in an icy blue shawl and is surrounded by snowy branches. The viewer is left to wonder if the allegorical woman is qu
ietly whispering to the birds to teach them the song of spring to come; or, if she is using the songbirds that once celebrated new life with her as sustenance to make it through the bitter winter. Pictured in: "Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Posters and Panels", by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, G.K. Hall & Co., Publishers, Boston, pages 90-97, cat. 18.
French Art Nouveau "Monaco Monte-Carlo" lithograph by Alphonse Mucha, printed by F. Champenois, Paris. This work illustrates one of the most intricate color designs by the artist. The lithograph portrays a kneeling young woman encircled by lilacs and hydrangeas with the bay of Monte Carlo in the background. The lines and curves of the flowers and stems within this lithograph are meant to suggest the wheels and tracks that convey the passengers to Monte Carlo. The advertisement was was commissioned by the railroad Chemin de Fer P.L.M. Pictured in: "Alphonse Mucha: The Complete Posters and Panels," by Jack Rennert and Alain Weill, G.K. Hall & Co., Publishers, Boston, pages 136-137.
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