Maître de l’Art NouveauFrom 17 November 2023 to 24 March 2024
Organised in collaboration with the Mucha Foundation, the Hôtel de Caumont is this year devoting its winter exhibition to the great master of Art Nouveau, Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939). This prolific and visionary artist revolutionised his contemporaries perception of art by applying his characteristic aesthetics to many fields, such as posters, advertising, interior decoration, and Belle Époque theatre. Via around 120 works originating from the Mucha Family Collection, the exhibition highlights all the splendour and evolution of Mucha’s style, with its blend of mysticism, symbolism, Slavic identity and beauty.
Born in Ivančice (now in the Czech Republic), Alphonse Mucha grew up in a Slavic province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; he arrived in Paris in 1887, after receiving formal training at the Academy of Fine Arts of Munich. It was during these years of his youth that he developed a committed political awareness that focused in particular on the affirmation of the identity of the Slavic peoples. In Paris, where fin-de-siècle mysticism fascinated the artistic circles, Alphonse Mucha became the great poster designer that we know, thanks to his providential encounter with the ‘divine’ Sarah Bernhardt. The Mucha phenomenon was hailed by the ‘tout Paris’ and spread internationally, and he eventually became a major figure of Art Nouveau aesthetics, which were characteristic of the period. However, the artist’s real ambitions were very different: Alphonse Mucha, who saw himself as a more committed artist, longed to create more noble works in order to put his art at the service of universal brotherhood. An active Freemason and an ardent supporter of the Slavic people, Mucha spent his life developing an art that aspired to be ‘liberating’, giving his work a Czech, Slavic, and humanistic flavour.
The aim if this exhibition is to show, not only how Mucha’s oeuvre, which combined different aesthetics, was fundamentally committed to a cause, and also how the use and appeal of beauty are tinged with symbolism and mysticism throughout his career. Mucha, for whom art is universal, tried to assert his artistic intentions in his work. In addition of the evolution of Mucha’s graphic style and the mystical inspiration of his visual language, the exhibition focuses on the artist’s committed thinking as a constituent element of his works, which are characterised by beauty and harmony.
Next to the most popular works of the time, showing that Mucha was one of the leading representatives of Art Nouveau (such as the famous advertising posters, including those produced for Sarah Bernhardt, and the famous decorative panels), you will be able to admire the artist’s paintings, which have rarely been shown, through a symbolist and allegorical interpretation. The exhibition also reveals his little-known photographic work, both in his studio in fin-de-siècle Paris and also through the documentary photographs and mises en scène that he produced as part of his research for his series of monumental paintings honouring the history of his people, The Slav Epic.
Tomoko Sato has been curator of the Mucha Foundation since 2007. Previously, she worked at the Barbican Centre (Art Gallery) in London for 20 years and organised a wide range of exhibitions on the art, architecture and design of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as on photography, including “Japan and Britain: An Aesthetic Dialogue 1850-1930” (1991-92); “The Wilde Years: Oscar Wilde and the Art of His Time” (2000), “Nobuyoshi Araki: Self, Life, Death” (2005) and “Alvar Aalto through the Eyes of Shigeru Ban” (2007). As curator of the Mucha Foundation, she oversees international research and exhibition projects on Alphonse Mucha, including “Alphonse Mucha” at the Complesso del Vittoriano in Rome (2016), “Alphonse Mucha” at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris (2018/2019), “Alphonse Mucha - La Beauté Art Nouveau” at the Musée Départemental Breton in Quimper (2021), “Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau Visionary” and at the Guardian Art Center in Beijing “Timeless Mucha: The Magic of Line” (2022/2023). To enrich the artist’s familiar image as an Art Nouveau poster artist, Tomoko Sato is also the author of several major books: Alphonse Mucha: The Artist as Visionary (2015: Taschen, Cologne); Alphonse Mucha: Art Nouveau to Utopia (2016: Skira, Milan), Alphonse Mucha Photographs (2018: Mucha Foundation, Prague) and Le Pater: Le Grand Œuvre d’Alphonse Mucha (2023: Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais, Paris).
The Mucha Foundation
The Mucha Foundation was founded in 1992 by Alphonse Mucha’s grandson and the daughterin- law: John Mucha and Geraldine Thomsen Mucha. The Mucha Foundation aims to preserve and protect the Mucha Family Collection, which is the largest and most complete collection of Mucha’s works in the world, as well as promote Alphonse Mucha’s artistic heritage. Over the years, the Mucha Foundation has organised more than ninety exhibitions around the world, during which more than 6,500,000 visitors have discovered not only the works of Alphonse Mucha, but also Czech culture. The Mucha Foundation, whose president is John Mucha, is recognised internationally as the authority on the life and work of Alphonse Mucha.
Production and creation
Emmanuelle Lussiez, Director of Exhibitions at Culturespaces; Milly Passigli, Deputy Director of Exhibition Programming; Madeleine Balansino, Head of Exhibitions at the Hôtel de Caumont-Art Centre; Livia Lérès and Domitille Sechet, responsible for iconography at Culturespaces.
Hubert le Gall, a French designer, artist, and contemporary art sculptor.
The visit application
For visitors with a smartphone, download the visit application on your mobile now and enjoy 2 tours: "Permanent Collection" and "Temporary Exhibition".
- The "permanent collection tour" contains a 35-minute guided tour to explore the Hôtel de Caumont and its finest works. Free tour.
- The "temporary exhibition tour" allows you to discover the major works of the exhibition through some twenty audio comments. Paid tour 2,49 €
Guided tours of the exhibition
Guided tours of the exhibition (in French) are offered every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 4pm.
Rate: exhibition entrance + 7€
The guided tour is in French only.