The muted and complex palette of pastel colours and the sensuous, sinuous lines of Alphonse Mucha’s work heralded a novel moment in art history. In works notable for their youthful energy and simplified draftsmanship, Mucha (1860–1939) helped to turn the conventional art world upside down.
After years of toiling in obscurity, in 1895 the impoverished young Czech became an overnight sensation in Paris by creating a poster for a play starring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress of the period. Before long, “le style Mucha” – later known as the Art Nouveau movement – was the term used to describe the new spirit transforming the city. Mucha’s commitment, however, was not just to the “nouveau,” but to the larger human project: a celebration of the creative spirit.