Alfons Mucha and the Slav Epic
The museum offers the following chronology of the artist and his work to the visitor:
1879 - 1881
1885 - 1887
Mucha lived in Munich and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts.
1887 - 1904
Mucha lived in Paris. In late 1894 he gained fame with his poster Gismonda, created for Sarah Bernhardt, with whom he continued to work closely in the ensuing years. He became one of the most sought-after artists working in the applied arts and creating advertising posters and illustrations and he helped shape the style of his era. He designed the interior of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion at the Exposition Universelle 1900 in Paris.
1905 - 1909
Mucha worked mainly in the United States.
On 6 November, in a letter addressed to the Prague mayor Karel Groš, Mucha offered to create and donate to the city a series of twenty monumental paintings to be called the Slav Epic, work on which would be partly sponsored by Charles R. Crane. A condition of the donation was that the city pledge to hang the monumental series in a special exhibition hall.
On 19 November, the Prague City Council unanimously agreed at a meeting to accept Mucha’s offer.
Mucha returned to Bohemia to work on paintings commissioned for the Mayor’s Hall in the Municipal House in Prague.
After completing the paintings for the Municipal House, Mucha began work on the Slav Epic. He studied historical, folkloric, and archaeological literature and consulted with experts to prepare, but the artistic aspect always took precedent over historical reality, and where necessary, he had no qualms about modifying a particular theme to suit his artistic objectives.
27 November, he informed Prague City Council of the completion of the first three paintings for the Slav Epic. He worked on the paintings at Zbiroh Castle, which he rented from Count Jeroným Colloredo-Mansfeld. He turned a twenty-metre-long hall with a glass roof into his studio, and he and his family resided in the east wing of the building.
On 6 December, he officially handed over the three paintings,
Slavs in Their Original Homeland,
The Celebration of Svantovit at Rügen, and the
The Introduction of the Slavonic Liturgy,
to representatives of the Prague City Council at Zbiroh Castle. The paintings remained at Zbiroh with Mucha, so that he could ensure that the tone of the other paintings in the cycle remained compatible with the first three. He followed this same procedure in the ensuing years.
On 30 May, at Zbiroh Castle Mucha handed over three more paintings in the Slav Epic to representatives of Prague City Council:
The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia,
The Defense of Szigetvár by Nicholas Zrinsky und
The Brethren School in Invančice.
On 9 October, Mucha informed Prague City Council of his completion of three more paintings in the series:
Master Jan Hus Preaching at the Bethlehem Chapel,
Jan Milíč of Kroměříž, und
The Gathering at Křížky.
Together these three form the monumental triptych „The Magic of Words”.
On 19 October, Mucha handed over to representatives of the Prague City Council the paintings
Petr Chelčický at Vodňany and
Jan Amos Komenský.
On 27 April, the first exhibition of paintings from the Slavic Epic opened in the Summer Refectory at Clementinum in Prague. Five of the eleven paintings that had been completed by that time were put on display: The Celebration of Svantovit at Rügen, The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia, and the triptych ‘The Magic of Words’.
From 15 June to 1 September, an exhibition of work by Mucha was held at the Art Institute of Chicago. It included five paintings from the Slav Epic, the same ones that were shown at the Clementinum.
On 27 August, at Zbiroh Castle, Mucha handed over four more paintings to representatives of the Prague City Council:
After the Battle of Vítkov Hill,
The Hussite King Jiří of Poděbrady,
Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria und
The Coronation of the Serbian Tsar Stefan Uroš Dušan as East Roman Emperor.
On 18 October, at Zbiroh Castle representatives of the Prague City Council were given the painting
After the Battle of Grunwald.
On 27 November Mucha handed over the painting
King Otokar ii of Bohemia
in his Prague studio in the building of Česká Banak (Czech Bank).
In 1926 Mucha continued to work on the Slav Epic in a spacious studio set up in school lecture hall on U Studánky Street in the Holešcovice district in Prague.
On 3 July, during the 8th national jamboree of Sokol, a movement devoted to physical fitness, a festive play titled Slav Brethren was staged on the Vltava River, and in it Mucha presented some of the themes from the Slav Epic in the form of pageants, created on boats and rafts floating through evening Prague.
On 29 November, in the school on U Studánky Street, Mucha gave representatives of Prague City Council the paintings
The Oath of the Youth under the Slavic Linden Tree and
Apotheosis ‘Slavs for Humanity!’.
On 21 September, Mucha officially handed over the complete Slav Epic. Prague Mayor Karel Baxa accepted nineteen paintings on behalf of the city at the launch of an exhibition titled Slav Epic, which was held in the Great Hall of the Trade Fair Palace in Prague. Allegedly owing to a shortage of space The Oath of the Youth under the Slavic Linden Tree was not exhibited (it was never completed). From 23 September to 31 October, the exhibition was open to the public.
On 27 May, a retrospective exhibition of the work of Alfons Mucha and František Kupka opened at Jeu de Paume in Paris. Mucha’s collection included three paintings from the Slav Epic: Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria, After the Battle of Grunwald, and Mount Athos.
At the same time Mucha exhibited photographs of all twenty paintings of the Slav Epic, full images and details.
Background illustration: Alfons Mucha 1860 – 1939
poster for Victorien Sardous' Gismonda,
starring Sarah Bernhardt at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris.
Lithograph 216 x 74,2 cm, ARC, Grendelkhan 2010 commons.wikimedia
The Present Past
- Alfons Mucha Slav Epic
- 1 Slavs in Their Original Homeland
- 2 The Celebration of Svantovit on Rügen
- 3 The Introduction of the Slavonic Liturgy
- 4 Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria
- 5 King Ottokar II of Bohemia
- 6 The Coronation of the Serbian Tsar Stefan Uroš Dušan as East Roman Emperor
- 7 Jan Milíč of Kroměříž
- 8 Master Jan Hus Preaching at the Bethlehem Chapel
- 9 The Gathering at Křížky
- 10 After the Battle of Grunwald
- 11 After the Battle of Vítkov Hill
- 12 Petr Chelčický at Vodňany
- 13 The Hussite King Jiří of Poděbrady
- 14 The Defense of Szigetvár by Nicholas Zrinsky
- 15 The Brethren School at Ivančice
- 16 John Amos Comenius in Naarden
- 17 The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia
- 18 Mount Athos
- 19 The Oath of the Youth Under the Slavic Linden Tree
- 20 Apotheosis of the Slavs