Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Alphonse Mucha

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sunday, I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Alphonse Mucha

Born 24 July 1860 in the small Moravian mountain town of Ivančice–a neighbor to the current and historic CZ arms concern in Brno– in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was one Alfons Maria Mucha. Taking up painting as a youth more or less as a hobby, by his twenties, he grew more serious and attended the Munich Academy of Fine Arts and later schools in Paris.

The artist

The artist

Some of Mucha’s first paid international work, when he was just 33, was in creating a series of uniform plates for the Royal Brazilian Army.

Brazilian uniforms, c. 1894 Mucha, Alphonse (artist) 1st in pair of chromolith. pl. after Mucha; uniform figures of veteran, cadet of Colegio Militar, and horse artillery officer. Via the Anne S.K.Brown Military Collection at Brown University.

Brazilian uniforms, c. 1894 Mucha, Alphonse (artist) 1st in pair of chromolith. pl. after Mucha; uniform figures of veteran, cadet of Colegio Militar, and horse artillery officer. Via the Anne S.K.Brown Military Collection at Brown University.

Brazilian uniforms, c. 1894 Mucha, Alphonse (artist) 2nd in pair of chromolith. pl. after Mucha; 2 uniform figures of general staff officer, cavalry officer. Via the Anne S.K.Brown Military Collection at Brown University.

Brazilian uniforms, c. 1894 Mucha, Alphonse (artist) 2nd in pair of chromolith. pl. after Mucha; 2 uniform figures of general staff officer, cavalry officer. Via the Anne S.K.Brown Military Collection at Brown University.

By 1895, he had become a professional poster illustrator and had even begun his own unique style of artistic impression in his depiction of the female form, taking otherwise imperfect reference models dressed in contemporary clothes and creating the highly-stylized soft featured, long-haired beauties garbed in neo-classical robes that became his hallmark.

With the coming of Spring, and today being Easter, I find these below images to be very refreshing.

 

Alphonse Mucha The Seasons, 1896, Spring and Summer .

Alphonse Mucha The Seasons, 1896, Spring and Summer .

Fall and winter

…followed by Fall and winter. Note how the flowers create a halo effect, commonly seen in Mucha’s female portrayals.

This one reminds me of someone special

Inset of “Madonna of the Lilies,” 1905…This one reminds me of someone special

Luna

Luna

1T8yK

The application of the artist's eye.

The application of the artist’s eye.

The model and final artwork for a 1903 illustration

The model and final artwork for a 1903 illustration

Zodiac 1896

Zodiac 1896

job cigarettes ad Alphonse Mucha

job cigarettes ad Alphonse Mucha

rHoD8

Soldiers Dream

Soldier’s Dream

By the 1900 Exposition Universelle where was an esteemed exhibitor, he had become acclaimed and his style soon known as Art Nouveau.

However lovely his style for commercial art was, he preferred more serious historical art depicting great battles and events– but that didn’t pay the bills. By 1910, he had found a benefactor in Chicago millionaire Charles Richard Crane, who brought luminaries such as Czech independence advocate Thomas Masaryk, Russian constitutional monarchy (Kadet) proponent Pavel Milyukov, and peacenik Maksim Kovalevsky to the U.S. to speak on Eastern European revolutionary ideals against the Tsar and Kaisers.

He toiled away on his Slav Epic for more than a decade, often working 10 hours or more everyday.

He toiled away on his Slav Epic for more than a decade, often working 10 hours or more everyday.

Crane financed Mucha’s dream work, a series of 20 immense panels that became known as the Slovanská Epopej (Slav Epic) that told the history of the Slavic peoples. Funded by Crane, Mucha rented part of the old historic 13th century Zborov Castle (which according to legend is built on the site of a gate into hell), near the Russian border and worked on his saga for several years until the advance of the Tsar’s Army into the region in 1915 sent him away from the castle, which became a battlefield of Slav-on-Slav violence for the next several years.

Nevertheless, before the Epic was complete, in 1919, his country had become Czechoslovakia and Mucha the Slavic patriot drew up the first currency, stamps, Army recruiting posters, and government insignias (even using a model of Crane’s wife for the 100 crown note!)

The 50 Crown note designed by Muncha

The 50 Crown note designed by Muncha

100 C note-- with Crane's old lady on it

100 C note– with Crane’s old lady on it

By 1928, his Slav Epic was complete and the now-68 year old patriot donated it to the city of Prague for public display– then went on to design a stained glass window for St. Vitus Cathedral, a national landmark.

Petr Chelcicky at Vodnany: Do not repay evil with evil - 1918.Vodnany was a small town caught in the crossfire between the Hussites and the Germanic forces. They chose to flee to Petr Chelcicky, a religious peasant philospher. When they arrived, they lay down exhausted and dieing, consumed by anger and grief, their homes burning in the background. Chelcicky moves amongst them with a Bible, offering comfort and support, asking that they do not seek vengeance.

Petr Chelcicky at Vodnany: Do not repay evil with evil – 1918.Vodnany was a small town caught in the crossfire between the Hussites and the Germanic forces. They chose to flee to Petr Chelcicky, a religious peasant philosopher. When they arrived, they lay down exhausted and dieing, consumed by anger and grief, their homes burning in the background. Chelcicky moves amongst them with a Bible, offering comfort and support, asking that they do not seek vengeance.

After the Battle of Grunwald (1st Tannenberg) 1410 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Grunwald during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The early fourteenth century was marked by military incursions by the German Order of Teutonic Knights into the land of the Northern Slavs. In response, The Polish King Wladyslaw Jagiello and the Czech King Vaclav IV signed a defensive treaty which was first acted upon at the battle of Grunwaldu in 1410 when the Slavs won an important victory. Mucha elects to illustrate not the fighting but the aftermath, with the Polish King holding his face in sorrow as he views the cost to both enemy and ally.

After the Battle of Grunwald (1st Tannenberg) 1410 during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The early fourteenth century was marked by military incursions by the German Order of Teutonic Knights into the land of the Northern Slavs. In response, The Polish King Wladyslaw Jagiello and the Czech King Vaclav IV signed a defensive treaty which was first acted upon at the battle of Grunwaldu in 1410 when the Slavs won an important victory. Mucha elects to illustrate not the fighting but the aftermath, with the Polish King holding his face in sorrow as he views the cost to both enemy and ally.

Defense of Sziget against the Turks by Nicholas Zrinsky. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Szigetv%C3%A1r during the the Ottoman–Habsburg wars, 1566 In 1566 The Turks began advancing along the Danube into the Hungarian plains. Their advance was eventually halted at the city of Sziget by a citizens' army let by Croatian nobleman, Nicholas Zrinsky. With the town under siege, he was obliged to fire the Old Town to deter advances. After a further nineteen days and with Zrinsky dead, the women of the city took refuge a watchtower; Zrinsky's widow, realising the inevitability of defeat, threw a touch into a gunpowder store, destroying the city but inflicting damage on the Turkish army which halted their progress.

Defense of Sziget against the Turks by Nicholas Zrinsky, during the the Ottoman–Habsburg wars, 1566 In 1566 The Turks began advancing along the Danube into the Hungarian plains. Their advance was eventually halted at the city of Sziget by a citizens’ army let by Croatian nobleman, Nicholas Zrinsky. With the town under siege, he was obliged to fire the Old Town to deter advances. After a further nineteen days and with Zrinsky dead, the women of the city took refuge a watchtower; Zrinsky’s widow, realizing the inevitability of defeat, threw a touch into a gunpowder store, destroying the city but inflicting damage on the Turkish army which halted their progress.

After the Battle of Vitkov Hill. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_V%C3%ADtkov_Hill during the Hussite wars 1420. In the early stages of the Hussite wars, the German King occupied the castle at Prague and was crowned king. A peasant army of Hus's followers arrived from Southern Bohemia to oppose the Germans, led by a brilliant military leader, Jan Zizka of Troenov. Their position at the hill of Vitkov was under siege until relieved by a group of Czech soldiers from Prague arrived, led by a priest bearing a monstrance. The mural shows the priest at a field bearing the monstrance and surrounded by supplicating clergy, with Prague's Hradcany Castle visible to the right.

After the Battle of Vitkov Hill during the Hussite wars 1420. In the early stages of the Hussite wars, the German King occupied the castle at Prague and was crowned king. A peasant army of Hus’s followers arrived from Southern Bohemia to oppose the Germans, led by a brilliant military leader, Jan Zizka of Troenov. Their position at the hill of Vitkov was under siege until relieved by a group of Czech soldiers from Prague arrived, led by a priest bearing a monstrance. The mural shows the priest at a field bearing the monstrance and surrounded by supplicating clergy, with Prague’s Hradcany Castle visible to the right.

Stained glass by Mucha at St. Vitus, 1931

Stained glass by Mucha at St. Vitus, 1931

Czechoslovakia became one of Hitler’s first targets and by early 1939, in violation of the Sudeten Agreements, the Germans had taken over the country (in a curious twist of fate, Crane, who funded the first U.S. oil investments in Saudi Arabia, was a big fan of Hitler’s).

Non a smile in the bunch on either side. German troops enter Prague,March 1939. Mucha would be dead within four months and his very funeral a spark of resistance in occupied Europe-- one of the first.

Non a smile in the bunch on either side. German troops enter Prague,March 1939. Mucha would be dead within four months and his very funeral a spark of resistance in occupied Europe– one of the first.

Eager to stamp out anti-German (or pro-Czech/Slav) dissent, the Geheime Staatspolizei soon rounded up the usual suspects to include the 78-year old Mucha who was interrogated and imprisoned for several weeks under horrible conditions. This led to the artist contracting pneumonia and dying in July of that year from lung infection.

The Nazis had banned all public demonstrations during the occupation, nevertheless the people of Prague turned out by the thousands for his funeral. He is interred at the famous Vysehrad cemetery near Anton Dvorak and remembered in a huge monument there.

Fearing the Nazis would seize or destroy the Epic, the paintings were stripped from their frames, rolled up, and spirited away to be hidden in a tomb in the countryside.

After the war, the newly Communist Czech government found Mucha’s works petit bourgeois and even the Epic was kept rolled up, only finally returning to public display in 1963 in a dilapidated chateau in Moravsky Krumlov, just outside of Brno– although Prague really wants them back.

The Epic on display. Keep in mind its 20 panels

The Epic on display. Keep in mind its 20 panels

He is remembered today as one of the most well known masters of, and perhaps the inventor of Art Nouveau besides being viewed as a national hero in the Czech Republic.

As such there are many of his works online in addition to several societies, foundations, galleries  and museums.

There are even hundreds who walk around with Mucha-inspired personal illustrations and a steady business in art nouveau Much ink.

Mucha-Inspired-Tattoo-4

Thank you for your work, sir.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as GUNS.com, Univesity of Guns, Outdoor Hub, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the US federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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