- Meredith Moss Staff Writer
It’s the perfect weekend for indoor fun.
It’s also your last chance to see this special exhibition at the Dayton Art Institute.
The exhibit “Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau” will be on view through Dec. 31. This is the only Midwest stop for the exhibit.
Drawn from one of the finest private collections of Mucha’s work in the United States, this exhibition features 75 works by the celebrated Czech master, whose varied, expressive, and seductive imagery helped form and later shape the aesthetics of French Art Nouveau at the turn of the 20th century.
We asked Katherine Ryckman Siegwarth, the Dayton Art Institute’s Kettering Assistant Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, to tell us more about an artist she’s admired since childhood.
Q: Who was Alphonse Mucha?
Siegwarth: Mucha was a Czechoslovakian artist who lived from 1860 to 1939 and became known for a distinctive style that established him as a leader of the Art Nouveau movement. His work ranged from paintings, posters and advertisements to jewelry, carpet and wallpaper designs. Mucha’s works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster-makers he used pale pastel colors.
Q: What is Art Nouveau and how does one recognize it?
Siegwarth: Art Nouveau was a visual, decorative and architectural art style popular from the late 1880’s until the First World War when the Art Deco style gained popularity. Art Nouveau can be recognized by its highly-stylized forms inspired by natural elements. You’ll see a lot of long, curving plants and other sinuous line details. And within the visual arts, you will note beautiful women, or femme fatales, with long, flowing hair and seductive glances — a trademark style of Alphonse Mucha.
Mucha was also interested in spiritualism and Masonic philosophy. He later became a Grand Master of the Freemasons of Czechoslovakia which also influenced many of his later designs. At that point in his career he was trying to elevate the meaning and influence of his designs — no longer seductive women, but figures who represented virtrues such as “truth” and “peace.” There are other symbols within designs that are associated with the Freemasons. Some of the works towards the end of our exhibit demonstrate this change.
Q: What materials did Mucha use in his art?
Siegwarth: As a principal designer for advertisements as well as book and journal illustrations, Mucha made a significant number of lithographs. There were several advancements in printing and color lithography techniques during his time, making it an exciting medium for experimentation.
Mucha’s lithographs reflect the rich texture of modern life in Paris at the turn of the century — this is the opulent Belle Époque and fin-de-siècle. His subject matter ranges from biscuits, perfumes and liqueurs to exhibitions and expositions locations. He also did publicity for leading theatrical celebrities of the era.
Q: How is he best known?
Siegwarth: Mucha is perhaps best known for the “Slav Epic,” his series of twenty monumental paintings depicting Czech and Slovak history. He was an ardent supporter of Czech independence and gifted this series of paintings in 1928 to Czechoslovakia on the 10th anniversary of its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Also, in 1919, he designed the first Czech bank notes, which will be on view in the exhibition.
Q: What would you hope visitors take away from the exhibition?
Siegwarth: With any exhibition, I hope visitors are able to see how the artworks on view were influenced by the time and events surrounding its creation, but also how the visual arts in turn influenced the world around it.
This exhibition is a great example of that. Mucha created singular works that shaped an artistic style, changed advertising campaign strategies, while also showed audiences today the opulent world of turn of the twentieth century Paris.
But most importantly, I wish for visitors to have fun!
WANT TO GO?
What: “Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau, ” an exhibit featuring 75 works from the Dhawan Collection
When: Through Dec. 31, 2017
Where: Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park North, Dayton
Admission: $14 adults; $11 seniors (60+), students (18+ w/ID), active military and groups (10 or more); $6 youth (ages 7-17); and free for children (ages 6 & under) and members.
More info: Visit daytonartinstitute.org/mucha. Use the hashtag #MuchaDAI to join the conversation on social media.