Friday, March 18, 2011

Mucha’s The Slav Epic

The Slav Epic, Alphonse Mucha (Alfons Mucha)
Most people who are familiar in passing with Art Nouveau artist Alphonse (Alfons) Mucha (see my recent post on Alphonse Mucha on Gallica Digital Library) are not aware of his body of work that is in a very different style.

The most important and striking examples of this are a series of 20 very large canvasses called The Slav Epic, which Mucha considered the most important work of his lifetime and the culmination of his artistic career.

The paintings tell the history of Slavic people, and are housed in a castle in the small town of Moravský. There is long standing controversy about plans to bring them to Prague.

The paintings are little known outside of the Czech Republic and images of them are not readily available. There are few, if any, in most books on Mucha, though Mucha by Sarah Mucha is listed as containing some information and images on the Slav Epic paintings, even if incomplete. I haven’t seen the book myself.

There are a few scattered examples on the web, notably on the Mucha Foundation, Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons and a complete set with commentary on the site of John Price, and an even better, larger set on the blog, A Journey Through Slavic Culture.

There is also a post on the Golden Age Comic Book Stories blog that features alternate states and preliminary photographs of some of the works.

[Golden Age Comic Book Stories link via @francisvallejo]

10 thoughts on “Mucha’s The Slav Epic

  1. Marie-Alice

    Hello,

    Do you know this book ?
    http://www.amazon.fr/Alfons-Mucha-Agnes-Husslein-Arco/dp/2757202774/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1300436944&sr=1-3

    It is the book associated to the french 2009 exhibition that took place in Montpellier, France. I believe it to be the best book you can find about Mucha. It includes his posters, his designs for jewels and other items, the Slav Epic with magnificent detailed close ups, the Pater, his architecture drawings for Universal Exposition, pictures of the Fouquet shop designed by Mucha, drawings, photographs…
    But it is french. Even so, I highly recommend this book.

    Now also seems to be a good time to thank you for your wonderful blog, you made me discover so many artists.
    (By the way, I just refered to you as I included the animation “out of sight” in my new born blog)
    Thank you again.

  2. Joyce Donahue

    Did you know that these images, along with a lot of examples of Mucha’s Art Nouveau style were circulated in the early 20th century on postcards? Here is an example of a vintage postcard from the Slav series: http://www.vintagepostcards.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=VPC&Product_Code=ARTNAL-F3265&Category_Code=ARTNAL

    By the way, the “world’s most expensive postcard” is one of Mucha’s Waverly Cycles image, which sold for $11,000 about 5 years ago, because it is one of only 3 known to exist, and the only one with no writing or physical damage.

  3. William R Moore

    Charley,
    Thank you for taking the time to research and write such an informative blog. I always look forward to receiving your new post in my google reader.

  4. Kim

    Oh, this is fabulous… I’ve seen tiny pictures of these in books and on websites dozens of times, but I’ve never been able to find images large enough to see any detail.

  5. Tom Jung

    Hello, I have been to Moravský Krumlov twice to see this great paintings and its really breathtaking. On the reproductions you can´t see beautiful work with light reflections – combination of bright oil painting and velvet tempera. Beautiful.

  6. Ian Leadbeater

    My wife took me to see the paintings last year(2010)as a 50th birthday present. Our trip coincided with the wrangle over their move to Prague. We were not sure if we would see them, even on the very morning that we set off on the train from Brno.We were astonished to find that few people in the Republic knew of their existence, including staff in Tourist Information centres!! The trip left us with mixed feelings about the paintings being relocated. If in Prague, they could be viewed by a wider audience and give them the exposure that they deserve. But leaving them in Moravsky Krumlov means that the journey becomes part of the trill in seeking them out with all the glory of the Czech Rep to admire also(both sights and people).The total experience was something that will remain with us forever. The paintings? I cannot find the words to describe the impact. A very moving experience.

  7. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks for the personal insight, Ian. It’s hard to say where I come down on the question of moving the works. I’m sorry to hear, though, that the tourist information centers aren’t doing more to promote this great cultural resource, and elevate Mucha’s contribution to the status it deserves.

  8. Joanie Boucher

    We were in Prague for Christmas this year (2012) and l was determined to track the paintings down despite the fact that the tourist brochures, guides, hotel owners and even the workers at the original Mucha Gallery couldn’t tell us where they were. Finally found them in a modem building north of the main town – most are there – and how fabulous they are – breathtakingly beautiful – l could have spent a day in front of each one – My admiration for Mucha is off the charts ! his genius combined with the sheer volume of work is staggering. Now l understand that he produced the illustrative works (as wonderful as they are) because he needed to live and eat but the Slav Epic paintings were his passion and it shows. If you haven’t seen them find a way to get there. Personally l’m glad they were moved to the capital so that Mucha can be recognised internationally for the genius he was.

  9. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks, Joanie. I’m surprised they weren’t more readily mentioned in guides and brochures, since the idea of bringing them to Prague was to increase awareness of the paintings and make them a destination. I’m glad you got to see them though.

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