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L 137 Gismonda.jpg


«E“Posters were a good way of enlightening the wider public. They would stop and see the posters on their way to work, deriving spiritual pleasures from them. The streets became open-air art exhibitions.»

—Alphonse Mucha


In 1887, after two years studying at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, Mucha arrived in Paris, where he had further training at the Académie Julian and the Académie Colarossi, and then worked as a freelance illustrator.

His breakthrough came on St. Stephen’s Day (26 December) 1894. Mucha, who happened to be correcting proofs for a friend at Lemercier’s printing workshop, was commissioned on behalf of a regular artist who was on Christmas holidays, to design a poster for Sarah Bernhardt’s revival production, Gismonda, which was due to be performed on 4 January 1895. The poster appeared on the hoardings of Paris on New Year’s Day, and became instant success.

Mucha’s Gismonda was strikingly different from posters by artists like Jules Chéret or Henri Toulouse-Lautrec: it used an unusually tall format, the colours were more restrained and harmonious, and the lines were distinctively flowing and elegant. Following his first poster’s success, Mucha worked for Bernhardt as her artistic director and designer, creating six further theatrical posters for her.

This section features Mucha’s ground-breaking work in poster design, Gismonda, and other theatre posters for Sarah Bernhardt, as well as advertising works that made Mucha one of the most sought-after graphic designers in Paris.

Guismonda, 1894

Colour lithograph

216 x 74,2 cm

Copyright© 2023 Mucha Trust

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