Alfons Mucha (born Alfons Maria Muchanote , 24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939), known internationally as Alphonsenote Mucha, was a decorative artist whose work is often considered to be the Trope Codifier for the Art Nouveau style.note He was born in what is now the Czech Republic, and after studying in various parts of Europe, he moved to Paris in 1887. While he was there, he became highly successful as a poster artist and graphic designer. (Among other things, he had a mutually very profitable professional association with Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress of the period, designing posters for her theatrical performances.) His posters remain hugely popular to this day (though Mucha thought that his most important work was an occult analysis of the Lord's Prayer).
Later in his life, he returned to his native land as Czechoslovakia gained independence after World War I. A dedicated Czech patriot, he designed postage stamps and banknotes for the new state, creating perhaps the most artistically beautiful money in history, and spent years on his "Slav Epic", a series of twenty huge paintings depicting the history of his nation and its people. But he's remembered for those posters and prints.
Mucha was a patriot, and had Jewish roots, so when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, the Gestapo naturally hauled him in for questioning. They did release him eventually, but by then, the ageing Mucha was suffering from pneumonia. He died not long afterward. Although he was never entirely forgotten, his work slipped out of fashion for a while, but enjoyed a new burst of popularity in The '60s, when his taste for swirling floral designs again came into line with prevailing trends.
Mucha’s usual subject in his posters — an attractive woman, clad or partly clad in flowing robes, frequently framed by a “halo” or decorative border, staring thoughtfully at the viewer or pensively into space — has become a minor visual trope in its own right, frequently being the subject of Pastiche or Affectionate Parody, as here, here, here, or here.
Tropes often associated with Mucha include:
- Creator Thumbprint: Mucha could paint things other than beautiful women in classically-inspired gowns surrounded by flowers, flowers, and more flowers, with their hair either pinned up like a Gibson Girl or swirling about dramatically, set in intricate, organic looking frames — but it's what he's most often remembered for.
- The Gay '90s: Mucha’s art style more or less defines the most appropriate visual appearance for anything invoking this trope.
- Leaning on the Furniture: Quite a few of the women in his posters seem to be resting an elbow on something (maybe invisible furniture)◊ — a Modeling Pose that in this case conveys an air of pensiveness.
- Modeling Poses: Mucha's poster-women are often throwing some kind of shapes. Leaning on the Furniture pensively is the most common, as noted above, but a Contrapposto Pose shows up occasionally, and there's at least one case◊ of a (stylized but unmistakable) Boobs-and-Butt Pose.
- Pastiche: As the subject, not the creator. Pastiches of Mucha‘s poster art, with elegant women posing within stylised decorative frames, are practically a fan art genre in their own right.Sometimes I spend a lot of time coming up with clever art styles and visual references for the Skin Horse wallpapers, and sometimes I say, "Forget it, Mucha pastiches always look good."— Shaenon K. Garrity, artist on Skin Horse
- Seasonal Baggage: He did three series of color lithographs (in 1896, 1897, and 1900) showing four women representing each of the four seasons.
- Sex Sells: They're very tasteful and artistic examples, but the fact remains that many of those beautiful posters of pensive, lightly-clad women were created to advertise stuff. (And sometimes, when a modern viewer does realise that one of these posters was created as an advertisement, this may trigger a twinge of What Were They Selling Again?)
- Simple, yet Opulent: Most of Mucha's women wear fairly simple, classically-styled gowns, but the rich colors and swirling lineart give a sense of luxury and extravagance.