Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of place & home

Posts tagged ‘Art Nouveau’

My Vienna: Disrupting Historicism with Modernism

Above/featured: Modernism at Steinhof Church: building by Otto Wagner, angels by Othmar Schimkowitz, stained glass by Koloman Moser (HL).

Vienna is as much a present-day cultural capital city as she was for decades and centuries. Many will get a peek and taste of long-established aspects of the city by walking the streets of the Old Town for the atmosphere, chatting in cozy cafés with coffee and cake for the ambience, and swaying to the rhythms of the waltz under the spell of the (blue) Danube.

The early years of the 20th-century were troubled by greater calls for more autonomy from multiple ethnic groups within the patchwork of the Austro-Hungarian empire, by destruction and loss of life from The Great War (World War I), and by subsequent dissolution of the Empire. The capital city became an open theatre for socioeconomic and political changes across all class divisions within an environment where rebellion and revolution were the big talking points against the dogma of long-held traditions. Deep longing for the stability of the old and familiar mingled with equally enthusiastic desire for the radical of the new and mysterious.

Many in the arts, design, and cultural scene were questioning the excessive persistence of past styles, and were seeking something new to better represent changes happening all around them in Vienna. In 1897, a group of artists and architects resigned from the established Künstlerhaus to form the Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs (Union of Austrian Artists), known also as the Vienna Secession. Architecture moved towards a sharper focus to geometry and abstraction, and art flowed to the decorative with organic floral-like designs in the Jugendstil, Art Nouveau’s chapter in German-speaking lands. To promote their new ideas, the Secession group produced an official magazine called Ver Sacrum (“sacred spring” in Latin, 1898) and constructed the Secession building (1897) as an exhibition hall to display their work. The Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) was created in 1903 as an association of artists whose thinking and applied arts creations were a precursor to the Bauhaus movement. Members of the Werkstätte worked with Vienna’s architects to broaden and unite the various concepts for a complete artwork, or Gesamtkunstwerk, as applied to a living space: the house, its rooms and furnishings, the interplay of light and space, and the tools and utensils for every day aspects of living.

( Click here for images and more )

Alfons Mucha, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Museum fuer Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany,

Prague: Alfons Mucha & Slavic Art Nouveau

Above: “Amants” (1895), poster for actress Sarah Bernhardt and her Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg – 5 Dec 2015 (HL).

One of my favourite artists from the Art Nouveau period is Czech artist Alfons Mucha (“MOOTZ’kha”). He loved strong women, or at the very least, he loved drawing and painting images of strong women, from the unique perspectives of a professional nature (above, Sarah Bernhardt) and a personal nature (below, “The Slav Epic”). I also associate Mucha with Prague, and it’s fitting the Mucha Museum prominently features his 1911 painting of “Princess Hyacinth.”

The meeting at Krizky, The Slav Epic, Alfons Mucha, Narodni Galerie, National Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic,

Part of “The Meeting at Křížky” (from “The Slav Epic”, 1916). National Gallery Prague – 30 July 2013 (HL).

Princess Hyacinth, Alfons Mucha, Mucha Museum, Praha, Prague, Czech Republic,

Princezna Hyacinta” (Princess Hyacinth, 1911). Mucha Museum, 31 July 2013 (HL).

I made all of the photos above in July 2013 and December 2015. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

Hygiea, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Firmungstrasse 11, Kulturdenkmal Rheinland-Pfalz, Altstadt, Koblenz, Germany,

Fotoeins Friday: Koblenz “Hygiea” Jugendstil heritage

In Koblenz’s Altstadt, the building now at Firmungstrasse 11 between Jesuitenplatz and Josef-Görres-Platz is one of many in the list of “Kulturdenkmäler” or cultural monuments, as compiled by the Generaldirektion Kulturelles Erbe (General Directorate for Cultural Heritage) in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz.

Built in 1903 for the chemist/pharmacist Fritz Oetelshofen, the building is a three-story cladded row-house with mixed residential and commerical usage and surface decor in the Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) style. The top of the building is adorned with a woman’s head with flowing blonde hair. This is “Hygiea” (or Hygeia), the ancient Greek goddess of clean living and preventative health, and daughter to the god of medicine, Asklepios. Given her disposition to good “hygiene”, Hygiea is also the patron for apothecaries (pharmacists). The cultural monuments are also part of the 2002 UNESCO World Heritage Site listing for the surrounding Upper Middle Rhine Valley.

Listing of memorials in Koblenz: Denkmalverzeichnis Kreisfreie Stadt Koblenz (PDF, in German)

Koblenz Touristik and Romantic Germany for their advice and support. Koblenz is one of the cities in the Historic Highlights of Germany. I made the photo above on 26 November 2015 with the Canon EOS6D, 24-105 zoom, and the settings: 1/400-sec, f/10, ISO1000, and 60mm focal length. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

The Slav Epic, Alfons Mucha, Narodni galerie, National Gallery, Veletrzni Palac, Prague, Praha, Czech Republic,

My Praha: “The Slav Epic”, Mucha’s Masterpiece

One of the greatest and most important works of Czech art from the early 20th-century was on display in the Trade Fair Palace (Veletržní Palac) in Prague for four years until the end of 2016.

All 20 paintings of “The Slav Epic” (Slovanská epopej) by Alfons Mucha can be viewed in the Czech capital city for the first time in over 80 years. For admirers of Mucha, Art Nouveau and history, the work is easier to reach than ever before and should not be missed.

Mucha’s The Slav Epic is a series of paintings on large canvas, which he completed in 1926. The paintings tell the story and mythology of the Slav peoples, with Mucha imagining the entire work as a commemorative piece to the Czech nation. Each painting spans several metres in both height and width, and stands tall even in a spacious exhibition hall. In every painting, grand scenes and landscapes are shown in a mixture of restrained colours, important figures, and careful details.

Alfons Mucha and his Legacy

Mucha was born in 1860 in the Moravian town of Ivancice, about 20 kilometres southwest of Brno. He worked as an artist in Vienna, Munich, and Paris. In Paris, he began to find success when he produced art posters commercially for advertising and for theatre productions. He is well-known for posters of French actress Sarah Bernhardt and of the “Four Seasons” series. For the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, Mucha designed and painted the interior wall of the Bosnia-Herzogovina Pavilion. He traveled throughout the Balkans to examine the region’s history and culture, planting the seeds for his grand work.

An Epic Accompanies “The Slav Epic”

What does it mean to people and their history when they haven’t been allowed to express themselves freely? For the Czech people under external rule for centuries until the creation of an independent nation in 1918, attempts to establish the concepts of “národ” (nation) and “vlast” (home/country) and to navigate the differences in between often appeared in literature, music, and art. Among many examples is “Má vlast”, a collection of six symphonic “poems” created by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana.

Mucha developed a stronger sense of “Czech nationalism” while he was teaching and producing art in the United States in the early years of the 20th-century. He founded the Slavic Council where he met millionaire Charles R. Crane who provided financial support when work began on The Slav Epic. Mucha spent two decades completing his epic; in the intervening time, individual pieces of the work were shown in Prague, New York, and Paris.

With all the pieces gathered in a single location, The Slav Epic premiered in its entirety to the public in Prague in 1928 on the tenth anniversary of an independent Czech nation.

Mucha donated The Slav Epic to Prague on the condition that the city build an exhibition space solely to display the collection. But the Second World War put on hold further thoughts of building this space. Mucha died in 1939, and as the land was under Nazi occupation shortly afterwards, the work was under threat of being stolen or destroyed. The paintings were hidden, and by 1963, they found their way to a castle in Moravský Krumlov, near Mucha’s birthplace.

The people of Moravský Krumlov believe that The Slav Epic should remain in their town as they have kept the work safe and on display for decades. Because Mucha donated his work to their city, the people of Prague have always urged that The Slav Epic be moved back to the capital. Some have argued that as long as Prague does not have a dedicated space as stipulated by Mucha, the art should remain in Moravský Krumlov. Others have countered that the castle in Moravský Krumlov is insufficient, requiring a great deal of expensive renovation work, and that the town is difficult to reach for visitors.

“The Slav Epic” Returns to Prague

The Slav Epic returned to Prague in 2012 to the same venue where the entire collection was debuted in 1928. The present exhibition in Veletržní Palace’s Grand Hall is based upon the layout intended by Mucha to present an overall view of the history and legends of the Slavic people.

Many of the figures in several of the paintings seem to stare directly (and ominously) at the viewer, suggesting Mucha is pleading with the viewer to take notice of not only the individual painting, but also of how the given story fits within the general narrative and timeline of the epic.

The Mucha masterpiece is presently on display until the end of 2016. As no permanent space has yet been assigned in Prague, what happens next for The Slav Epic remains unclear. But given the work’s own saga, the future for The Slav Epic could amount to another “epic” in the making.

The Slav Epic, Alfons Mucha, Narodni galerie, National Gallery, Veletrzni Palac, Prague, Praha, Czech Republic,

The Slav Epic, Alfons Mucha, Narodni galerie, National Gallery, Veletrzni Palac, Prague, Praha, Czech Republic,

Top: No.1. The Slavs in Their Original Homeland, 1912. Below: Adam and Eve, of the Slavs.

The Slav Epic, Alfons Mucha, Narodni galerie, National Gallery, Veletrzni Palac, Prague, Praha, Czech Republic,

No.10. “The Meeting at Křížky”, 1916

The Slav Epic, Alfons Mucha, Narodni galerie, National Gallery, Veletrzni Palac, Prague, Praha, Czech Republic,

No.20. Apotheosis ‘Slavs for Humanity!’, 1926

The Slav Epic, Alfons Mucha, Narodni galerie, National Gallery, Veletrzni Palac, Prague, Praha, Czech Republic,

Towering Slav, wreathes of freedom and unity.


“The Slav Epic” exhibition was on display at Veletržní Palác (Trade Fair Palace) from December 2012 to December 2016. The fight continues about building a permanent home for The Slav Epic in Prague; the struggle is definitely real. According to a report from Czech News Agency (CTK), Michaela Vrchotova, head of public relations and marketing for the Prague City Gallery, said Mucha’s Epic might return on display in Prague in the Municipal House sometime in 2018.

Much More Mucha

•   Not far from Wenceslas Square, the Mucha Museum provides a quiet place to view a wide selection of Mucha’s artistic work.
•   Mucha produced the stained-glass window called ‘Allegory of the Slav Nation” appearing in St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.
•   Mucha painted the murals in the Lord Mayor’s Hall in the Municipal House (Obecní dům).
•   Over 120 Mucha posters in Ivan Lendl’s collection is on display at The Municipal House until 10 September 2013.
•   Mucha’s final resting place is in The Slavin in the Vyšehrad cemetery.
•   The Mucha Foundation

I made the photos above on 30 July and 6 August 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

%d bloggers like this: