Top Pick: Another side of Mucha

THE CURATOR of a new exhibition of works by the prominent Czech art nouveau painter Alphons Mucha had a particularly hard time finding a suitable place to hang Mucha's nearly five-by-four-metre painting portraying Přemysl Otakar II - the Iron and Golden Czech King. Finally, the 1924 painting, which is part of the Slavic Epic series, ended up hanging on the wall of the Pálffy's Palace staircase.
"This is the only spot in the entire gallery where the painting fits, almost perfectly to the centimetre," says the curator of the show and Bratislava City Gallery director Ivan Jančár.


SIBYL, 1920, oil on canvas.
photo: Courtesy of GMB

THE CURATOR of a new exhibition of works by the prominent Czech art nouveau painter Alphons Mucha had a particularly hard time finding a suitable place to hang Mucha's nearly five-by-four-metre painting portraying Přemysl Otakar II - the Iron and Golden Czech King. Finally, the 1924 painting, which is part of the Slavic Epic series, ended up hanging on the wall of the Pálffy's Palace staircase.

"This is the only spot in the entire gallery where the painting fits, almost perfectly to the centimetre," says the curator of the show and Bratislava City Gallery director Ivan Jančár.

The current Mucha show is a follow up to the Paris 1900 project, which was hosted by the same gallery two years ago. While the previous exhibition focused on posters and drawings by Mucha when he was in France, this one depicts Mucha's more unusual art works - oil paintings, book illustrations, designs for the first Czechoslovak bank notes and stamps - that he created before and after his stay in Paris and when he was in the Czech Republic and the United States. There are also photographs of the artist, his family and models.

"The works he created in the Czech Republic are rather romanticised, with no elements of the art nouveau style visible yet. The paintings he created after Paris, in America, go back to traditional themes such as can be seen in his series the Slavic Epic [A History of Slavs in Pictures]," explains Jančár.

Mucha, who became the star of the Paris art scene around 1895 with posters he created for actress Sarah Bernhardt, worked in many different areas of fine art during his career. His painted folding screens are among his most famous interior-design items. He was also involved in stage design for the German Theatre in New York, and his style inspires jewellery designers to this day.

Mucha was also strongly connected to his time, with his works reflecting on developments in society and politics.

"In the series of paintings entitled Blessed be... [painted in 1906], he shows a very sensitive approach towards social issues. It partly serves as a counterpart to the art nouveau style, which has always been rather superficial and decorative, but these paintings [with religious motifs] have a deeper meaning," says Jančár.

Since some of the exhibited works had never left the Czech Republic before this show, special permission was needed from the Czech Ministry of Culture and the mayor of the southern Bohemian town Český Krumlov, where the artist's paintings are on permanent display. Such was the case with the painting of Přemysl Otakar II.

"We to chose to display this painting rather than others from this series because the king got married close to Bratislava, where the river Danube meets the Morava," says the curator, happy that after the complicated negotiations and the difficulty in finding a suitable place for the painting, the public can see it at last.

The exhibition will be on display every day except Mondays from 10:00-18:00 until January 19 at the Pálffy's Palace Gallery at Panská 19, Bratislava. Admission is Sk40. Tel: 02/5443-3627.

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