Tag Archives: Sarah Bernhardt

Inspired by: Alphonse Mucha

Welcome to first in a series of Inspired By: posts in which I will share with you artwork I have created  inspired by well known artists, designers, and photographers of the past. This Inspired By: post will feature an artwork created with inspiration drawn from the great Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, Alphonse Mucha.

Alphonse Mucha © George R. Lawrence Co./WikiCommons
Alphonse Mucha © George R. Lawrence Co./WikiCommons

Trained and worked in Munich, Vienna, and Paris, Mucha created a prolific body of work, but it was through his poster designs that he gained international prominence and success. The actress Sarah Bernhardt features in some of his well known poster designs as Mucha was employed by her to design costumes, jewellery, posters, and stage sets. After several successful visits to the United Sates, where he had built up a following, Mucha returned to his homeland of Czechoslovakia where he worked on a series of 20 large scale oil paintings depicting the mythology and history of Czechs and other Slavic peoples, entitled The Slav Epic.

Mucha’s poster designs predominately featured women who were beautiful idealized symbols of femininity. Their curved forms, posture, and fixed gazes evoked a powerful aura of sensuality.

With this in mind I needed an image to begin with. My aim was to find an image which reflected the qualities that the women possessed in Mucha’s original poster designs. Turning to a few stock image websites I finally found what I was looking for.

Original image.
Original image.

This Public Domain image from Pixabay was perfect. The models stance and the way she held her gaze was just right, now I could begin.

Firstly I needed to decide on a colour scheme. Mucha’s work was often created with a limited, sometimes subdued palette of colour, so I decided on a colour scheme of muted yellows, pinks and blues. Mucha’s poster designs feature an abundance of natural elements i.e. Flowers, foliage etc, so I now turned my attention to source suitable images. With the colour scheme in mind I looked for images of flowers within my selected colour range. Here is a gallery of Public Domain images I selected from Pixabay to use within the work:

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Now with everything I need I now could start work. Firstly I cropped the original image and then painted out the background leaving only the models head and neck on the page. Next I moved on to arranging the floral element of the work. Opening each image I selected only the flower and copied into to my image of the model. What I wanted to create was a floral headpiece which sat on the models hairline almost like a tiara. The purpose of this was not just to add decoration to the image, it also serves as feature which draws attention to the models face.

Detail of the floral element.
Detail of the floral element.

As you can see I have also subdued the colour saturation of the flowers in keeping with the rest of the image. When creating an artwork, it is extremely important to think of it as a whole, each of the elements within it must work together.

Art Nouveau was one of the first styles that did not draw its inspiration from the past. It looked more to the present especially the natural world all around it. Some of its defining features included:

  • The whiplash motif
  • Elongated curved lines
  • The female form
  • Stylised Flowers and foliage

Now I turned my attention towards creating a more Art Nouveau look to my image. After considering a few options I could not decide on a way to achieve it.  After taking a break from the image I came across the solution by accident. I was sitting having a cup of tea and as I sat my cup down on the table, the steam that was rising from its contents where rising into the air creating the curves lines as seen in some of Mucha’s posters. By using decorative steam/smoke in my artwork could be the most effective way to issue the image with an Art Nouveau style, but still keeping a modern feel. After a few attempts I was finally delighted with the finished outcome. Here is the finished work in all its glory:

Mucha inspired art work.
Mucha inspired art work.

What do you think? It may not be not be a direct copy of one of his works, but I did not want it to be. My main goal was to create an image which embodied the spirit of his work, whether I have been successful or not I will leave that decision in your hands.

I first came across the work of Mucha as a teenager whilst at school, and since then he has remained one of my favourite artists. Please if you can take a look at some examples of his work, some highlights include:

  • Gismonda (1984)
  • La Dame aux Camélias (1896)
  • Zodiac (1896)
  • Rêverie (1897)
  • Moët & Chandon: Dry Imperial (1899)
  • The Slav Epic (1910 -1928)

A fantastic source of information on the life and works of Alphonse Mucha and his work is the Mucha Foundation you can visit their website at www.muchafoundation.org.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my first Inspired By: posts and please look out for more in the future. For more in formation about ReClick Photo please feel free to visit our website at http://www.reclickphoto.co.uk.

Thanks for reading!

Hugh at ReClick Photo.