I checked a book out of the library about Alphonse Mucha(1860-1939), by Sarah Mucha, and realized that the Whitman Chocolates Tin I’ve been using as a cash box was a reproduction of one from 1923, based on a Mucha poster. When I saw this tin in a gift shop a few years ago, glimmering with a mosaic pattern, I had to buy it since I’m a mosaic artist, and of course I had to eat all the chocolates. The has other posters by Mucha, and I am intrigued by his use of mosaic backgrounds.
A facsimile of a mosaic, done as a print, and adding another delight for the eyes amongst his detailed botanicals, and he also sketched fanciful jewelry in his posters, which ultimately became incarnated as actual jewels, when George Fouquet was inspired by Mucha’s work. Fouquet also commissioned Mucha to design his jewelry shop in Paris in 1901. When Fouquet renovated, he was so attached to Mucha’s work that he had the shop dismantled and kept in storage, until the Carnavalet Museum reconstructed it and put it on display. What a treasure to discover in storage!
Mucha was from Czechoslovakia, but spent many years in Paris and US, working as an artist. He returned home to paint a series of huge paintings about the Czech people, his Slav Epic. I felt a connection with him when I saw that one of the paintings is of Jan Hus, who protested the selling of indulgences by the Catholic church, and was burned at the stake in the 15th Century. Hus’s followers went on to become the Moravian Church, and the denomination I grew up in. What I didn’t know was that Hus’s martyrdom triggered a Czech Rebellion, and the Hussite Wars, and is intertwined with the political history of the Moravian people as well as the Moravian church.
Another surprise to me in this book, was Mucha’s death in 1939, after the Nazi’s invaded Czechoslovakia, and he was arrested by the Gestapo and interrogated. He died shortly after his release. The Mucha Museum has a quote by the artist, which I resonate with, describing his work as a bridge between people. His Slav Epic was about bringing forth the stories of his people, and ultimately about hope.
The purpose of my work was never to destroy but always to create, to construct bridges, because we must live in the hope that humankind will draw together and that the better we understand each other the easier this will become.