Mucha, Alphonse (1860-1939)

In our Art Nouveau and Art Déco auction on 27 May 2020 we offer the complete series Heures du jour (Times of Day), which Alphonse Mucha created in 1899. The four wonderful female allegories appear in a vertical format against the background of Arcadian nature and embody morning, noon, evening and night. Around 1900 Mucha was already at the height of his career as a poster artist in Paris. The artist, who was born in South Moravia and came to Paris via Vienna and Munich in 1888, had succeeded in establishing a style all his own, which earned him advertising commissions from companies such as Job, Ruinart and Moet et Chandon.

People like to tell the anecdote that between Christmas and New Year's Day 1894/95, the owner of the printing house Lemercier commissioned a complete stranger to design a poster for the play Gismonda, which was written on the body of the world-famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. The poster, which hung all over Paris, made Alphonse Mucha famous in a short time and persuaded Bernhardt to work with the artist for another six years. Alphonse Mucha established a new concept in poster art with his first design. He chose a portrait format that was unusual for the time, making it possible to show the actress in life-size. He also recognized that the representation should not simply be an enlarged illustration, but should have the greatest possible effect through a strong symbolic character and balance.

The four leaves of the times of day show the proverbial Mucha style in all its beguiling persuasiveness. The Morning, Éveil du matin, shows a blonde young woman in a spring-like setting, her gaze turned away from the viewer, barefoot she stands on a white sheet, her posture suggesting that she is just rising. Noon, Éclat du jour, shows a female figure in front of a body of water, her gaze is directed at the viewer, her body forms a straight line, the upward pointing arms intensify the striving for the top. Here, at the latest, the interweaving of the four seasons into the subject becomes apparent. As the title suggests, the evening, Rêverie du soir, is depicted lost in a dream. The background shows an autumnal deciduous tree. Repos de la nuit, the night, is depicted sleeping peacefully, and the background also shows a nocturnal backdrop bathed in a pale light by the full moon.

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