Alphonse Mucha (1860 - 1939) was a Czech painter, illustrator and graphic artist, living in Paris during the Art Nouveau period. He produced advertisements, illustrations and designs - being best known for his distinctly stylised and decorative theatrical posters.
The Parisian actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844 -1923) was the most influential figure in Mucha’s life as an artist. It was his first poster for her, Gismonda, that made him famous. Delighted with the success of Gismonda, Sarah Bernhardt immediately offered Mucha a contract to produce stage and costume designs as well as posters.
Mucha worked in a variety of mediums, extending his talents beyond "high art" to decor and furniture. In 1902 he produced a series of seventy-two printed plates of watercolour designs, titled Documents Decoratifs. They represented ways that floral, vegetable and natural forms could be used in decoration and decorative objects.
Mucha enjoyed a long and successful career as an artist, teaching and working in both Paris, Vienna and New York.
The rising tide of fascism in the late 1930s led to Mucha's works being denounced as 'reactionary'. When German troops marched into Czechoslovakia in 1939, Mucha was among the first to be arrested by the Gestapo.
During the course of the interrogation the aging artist fell ill with pneumonia, from which he would never recover. At the time of his death at the age of 78, Mucha's work was considered dated, however his son devoted much of his life bringing attention to his father's artwork. Interest in Mucha's style experienced a huge revival in the 1960's and his work remains popular until this day.