Paris and the Art Nouveau movement were such a perfect match it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Their love affair was short-lived but perfectly symbiotic: Paris needed the art form to fully express its romantic lyrical side, and Art Nouveau needed the world stage of Paris to attain its most glorious heights.
Many creatives of the time were helping to galvanize the city as the visual arts capital of the world, but one of the most influential wasn’t French at all. The expressive style of Czech-born Alphonse Mucha, who moved here in 1887 and held a studio in the Montparnasse district, was the perfect embodiment of the flowery fashionista femininity that was seeping into many facets of Parisian life.
An exhibit of his work just wrapped up at the Musée du Luxembourg and I made sure not to miss it. Upon entering, the first pieces were in line with the Mucha that I expected to see, like classic posters of Sarah Bernhardt and others that gave him his big break:
Stunning, for sure. But what came next was a series of surprises, which by the end of the exhibit gave me a whole new appreciation for this master of Art Nouveau. For example his traditional paintings on canvas that I didn’ know existed:
And the work he did for the 1900 Paris Expo, including this poster and a design for the menu of the Expo’s official banquet dinner. O how many times I’ve wished I could visit the Paris of 1900!
Here’s the menu cover (note the Pont Alexandre III in the background, brand new and built specifically for the 1900 Expo):The rooms that followed were even more breathtaking, especially labels and advertising created for French brands (champagne, cigarette papers, cookies, soap, etc.) If only our 2019 labels were up to this standard!
A couple of fabulous series were on display. This one featured allegories of Painting, Music, Dance and Poetry…
…and this one that represented the Four Seasons. Moving from one room to the next I had a recurring thought – these images have such a sense of perfection to them. There’s a feeling of balance where each composition has exactly what it needs – no more, no less.
I didn’t expect to enjoy such a visual feast at this show and I’m so glad I didn’t let it pass me by – I was profoundly inspired! Clearly turn-of-the-century Paris wouldn’t have been the same without Mucha, and I can’t imagine the excitement of being surrounded by these visuals back in those days.
Sadly this exhibit is gone now, but if you’re ever in Prague there’s a museum dedicated to this Czech hero of Art Nouveau. And I even heard talk of a possible Mucha museum being created in Paris. It would certainly be well deserved.
For an extended discussion on Mucha with additional photos and Paris addresses related to him, my Patreon supporters can access an exclusive posting at https://www.patreon.com/posts/24304843. If you wish to become a Patreon supporter and receive in-depth Paris content, you can learn more at https://www.patreon.com/afrenchfryeinparis.
Bonjour I love your posts and have been following you for several years I’m coming to Paris and looking for a studio in the 6th to rent for June, I am just wondering if you might know of one Thanks so much for any info you may have To give me Many Thanks Adrienne Erlick
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Hi, I don’t know of any places specifically, but I get a lot of feedback about rentals from my clients and followers. Take a look at ParisVacationApartments.com and cobblestoneparis.com
I hated for this blog post to end! I fell, headlong, into these words and photographs. What a magnificent time it must’ve been back in la belle epoque…*sigh*. Thank you for bringing more history and stunning visuals to my ever-blown mind; further confirming that Paris and I are meant to be together (even if only a couple of weeks per year).
Not sure why I was marked as “Anonymous”, but that comment above is from moi.
Yeah sometimes the anonymous thing happens. Thanks for letting me know who it was! You and Paris are definitely meant to be together. Personally I’m so tickled that I can still find avenues and characters that lead me deeper into an understanding of this city. It’s made all the more sweet by being able to share it with enthusiastic and appreciative folks like you!
Thanks! Hey it’s been a while, how’s the blog and things?
Excited that you’ve reached your one year Patreon anniversary and are still going strong 🙂. Things are good here in Philly. Having fun with the blog and Facebook. Glad you talked me into the Facebook page-definitely more activity and interaction. We reached our 100th follow last week, which was quite exciting. Tobey and I still love watching your videos together and are looking forward to spring in Paris (and hoping to visit one day soon). Best of luck to you and your growing family. We hope to take an in-person tour with you one day soon. I promised my son a trip to Japan as a high school graduation gift this spring, so Paris will have to wait a bit, but hopefully not too long!
I love Mucha :) I saw his exhibit in Prague. Lovely images. Glad to see you back on your blog. We missed you!
Thank you for taking us with you through the Mucha exhibit, Corey. My one regret in visiting Paris last May was that I could not do so again while this exhibit was being shone!
It’s easy to miss a show here and there. I have my own missed-exhibit regrets. :-) Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope this gave you a nice idea of the show.
Wow! What a stunning exhibit. I have seen the Mucha museum in Prague but sadly, the collection was traveling last time I was there. And I will miss this exhibit in Paris when I visit in a few months☹️. Thanks for taking me with you; vicarious enjoyment of such an awesome showcase such as this is certainly better that not seeing any of the collection at all!
I’m glad this could be a bit of a consolation prize! Alas we can’t make it every single show. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
What a treat! Muchas in Paris. So wonderful to see my favorite artist in my favorite city! Merci Corey!
Thanks for your comment Susy, I’m glad you enjoyed this. I’m pretty in love with Mucha lately.
Thank you, Corey! I had been hoping this was a tour of yours. Glad to see the gorgeous photos anyway. I vote in favor of a Museum of Mucha.
Thank you for these gorgeous photos of Mucha’s exhibit!! Mucha has been a favorite of mine since I was in high school and to see so many of his beautiful paintings in one place through your article has been such a pleasure.
I just found your website through Dreama’s Postcards from Paris class. I love, love, love your photography too!
So beautiful Corey, thanks! Hope to see some art nouveau during my own trip soon. Just sorry this exhibit will be gone. :( Thanks for sharing it!
Another exhibition I missed – ooooowh that hurts! I’m a HUGE fan of Mucha and I was in love with his work already a young girl/woman. The style of his art was often used in ‘home and garden’ magazines when I was a child, magazines who have disappeared since. I think my grandmum might have bought them occasionally and after we kids did all the weeding and cleaning up of her large garden we were allowed a cup of delcious tea in a real fine china cup (with a lady visible when the cup was empty! – so unusual and thrilling for us – and the fine china porcellaine) and a snoop through those magazines. Opened up a yearning to see more of Mucha and fond memories of ‘then’ and ‘there’. Thank you Corey, you are such a fine guide!
Thanks for another great comment Kiki – I LOVE that tea cup story! I didn’t know much at all about Mucha before this exhibit. What a wonderful discovery it was for me; it only deepened my love and respect for the Art Nouveau movement. Oh to have lived through those glory years of the City of Light!
your posted are very great and beautiful fashion and flowers …thank you for post
We have two Mucha pieces in our bathroom off the kitchen. I see them everyday.
That’s fantastic. His work is so inspiring and this show was a real eye-opener. I admit though that I was mispronouncing his name for a while (calling him Moo-cha) before someone finally corrected me. 😊