It’s more than a century old and from a culture halfway across the world, but the works featured in Canadian’s Citadelle Art Foundation’s exhibit “Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau - Selections from the Dhawan Collection” are as relevant as ever.
Mucha’s work was largely used in advertising around the turn of the 20th century, Citadelle Art Foundation Executive Director Wendie Cook said, but modern viewers will recognize marketing techniques still used in advertising today.
“His work is very palatable for a wide range of audiences,” she said. “It’s beautiful to look at because its lithography. It’s advertising. That’s how they were advertising around the turn of the century, and it’s interesting to look at how that’s changed — the similarities and the differences.”
The Czechoslovakian’s art was at its height of popularity in 1900. Characterized by a marriage of both organic and architectural design elements, University of Minnesota Art History Professor Gabriel Weisberg said Mucha’s works were varied, expressive and seductive. His body of work was deemed “the Mucha style” before earning the title “Art Nouveau.”
Curated by Weisberg, the exhibit includes 75 of Mucha’s works, including rare original lithographs and proofs, an oil painting, a pastel, drawings, books, posters, portfolios, and ephemera. Weisberg wrote an essay for the exhibition catalogue.
The exhibition is organized into three sections: posters; books and journal illustrations; and The Slav Epic, a series of large canvas paintings depicting the history of the Slav people.
Cook said Mucha’s works make an interesting study of the time period in which they were created. Not only is it a peek into what visual communications were like for the time period, but he also painted historical figures.
And the aesthetic quality alone gives the works value, she said.
“The compositions of his work are asymmetrical so that automatically brings interest going into the piece. They’re well-balanced. They’re exciting, and if you look closely you can see the lines that are flowing through the pieces,” she said. “It’s not just a flat picture of a historical figure — you just see so much more to it. It’s not just the history or the advertising, it’s the clarity of the image. It’s just beautiful.”
Cook said the exhibition is not geared toward a specific audience and is a non-intimidating art experience suitable for any age range or interest level.
The exhibit is an especially great opportunity for Texas Panhandle residents to see world-renowned art work locally, Cook said.
“It’s really important to have this high-caliber art in a rural setting because people in rural America, including Amarillo and Canyon as well and our part of the state, we’re trying to do a good job of educating a child who is able to take on the world in bigger markets,” she said.
The exhibition was curated from works in a private collection, Dhawan Collection, out of Los Angeles and premiered at The Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock, Calif., in the fall of 2015.