5 clips from THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 20 (RADIO SHOW)

Here are five clips from the latest episode of my radio show, THE ART MOVEMENT, the weekly radio show hosted/produced by arts presenter Matt Micucci. The show revolves around art and culture, and where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed.

(To listen to/download the full radio show, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

What is The Art Movement?

My thoughts on the negative feedback on this year’s Venice International Film Festival program.

Orson Welles and Dennis Hopper were unruly geniuses.

What is art nouveau?

Who is Alfons Mucha?

Lots more where that came from! You can listen to the full epsiode of THE ART MOVEMENT (including the music) via the player below.

Download the full radio show here.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!

Who is Alfons Mucha?

A partial transcript of Episode 20 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the full radio show.

So, having introduced art nouveau a little bit, it’s time to take a look at Alfons Mucha himself.

I have already said that he is rightly regarded as one of the most important exponents of the art nouveau. But it is important to note that Mucha himself wasn’t crazy about being regarded as belonging to this style. In fact, he saw art nouveau as contemporary and trendy, thus in stark opposition to his own beliefs that art should be timeless.

Mucha was born in 1890 in Bohemia, in what is known today as the Czech Republic. And he was born at a time when Bohemia’s cultural identity was threatened by Austro-Hungarian rule and the Germanization of Bohemia.

It’s worth mentioning this because his slavic nationalism would play a great role in his artistic endeavors. Mucha was keen on getting a serious education in the arts but was rejected by Arts Academy of Prague, the motivation being there were already too many artists in the city and not enough money.

This was only the beginning of his troublesome relationship with the academic world at large, which would also include a vintage wealthy troll as a benefactor who withdrew his funds for his arts education at a prominent art academy in Munich only a year later to teach young Mucha a lesson about the hardships of real life. Ouch!

In any case, for the vast majority of his formative years, during much of the 1880s and first half of the 1890s, whatever jobs he could find whether with a group of theatrical scenery makers or as a fixer of family portraits, decorating the homes of the wealthy or illustrating less than glamorous magazines and finishing off the assignments of more established artists… all of this replaced an academic education. During this time, he perfected his craft and found his style.

The opportunity of a lifetime occurred at Christmas time in 1894. A prominent Parisian theatre company was seeking out an artist to complete a series of posters for Sarah Berhardt’s theatrical productions. Nobody was willing to give up their rest during the holiday period and so, they were left with no choice but to give Mucha a shot.

Mucha took it and ran with it and when the posters were exhibited in Paris, they became the talk of the town and immediately caused a sensation. They also affirmed the Mucha style of lithography, which can be briefly described as beautiful, seductive women against a botanical backdrop.

The backdrop and patterns usually collaborate with the protagonist to create a concise and complete narrative. Meanwhile, the intricate patterns and flora of his works is a direct reference to his Czech origins, thus promoting that Czech identity and revealing his own Czech nationalism.

After the Bernhardt posters, Mucha could not have been busier, working with Champagne companies, cigarette companies, biscuit companies and even creating a memorable series to promote travel in Monte-Carlo. Book illustrations and series on the seasons of the year, the art muses and so on are just as popular. He was one of the most sought after artists, illustrators and designers of his time.

Once his status was established, he sought to realize his magnum opus, commonly referred to as The Slav Epic, which took him several years to complete and depicts the history of the Slavic people via 20 imposing canvases.

Mucha gifted the city of Prague with the series upon Czechoslovakia’s independence in 1928 but about a decade later, the country was occupied by the Nazis. Mucha died in 1939, shortly before his death he was interrogated by the Gestapo.

It should be mentioned that even while he was essentially creating artworks for brands, he lent his skills and abilities to more notable social causes. A few of his works, for example, champion women’s education.

In fact, the seductive women of his posters, the central figures of the vast majority of his most celebrated works, seem absolutely contemporary, empowered and in charge of their sexuality — which is an absolutely modern representation of femininity at large.

Some of his practices too were quite modern. For example, he painted and drew his works from photographs rather than live modeling. Some of these photographs are displayed in Prague’s central gallery and actually reveal him as quite a skilled photographer.

At the time, however, this technique was heavily criticized by traditionalists and purists who looked at Mucha’s aid from instruments of mechanical reproduction as cheating and even claimed that because of that, he was not a true artist.

Today, his works are rightly celebrated worldwide and continue to influence designs and graphics greatly. Just last night, as I reflected upon one of the women of his seasons series, it occurred to me that it greatly reminded me of Lauren Bacall’s famous look of empowered and sexually charged femininity of classic American cinema. A further evidence, I suppose, that all art is connected.

Download the full radio show here.

What is art nouveau?

A partial transcript of Episode 20 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the full radio show.

What exactly is art nouveau? Well, essentially, it was a major ornamental style of art that flourished between 1890 and 1910 throughout Europe and later, the United States. Do you want a well-known example? You know the typeface logo on bottles of Coca-Cola? That’s essentially art nouveau.

Incidentally, this show is actually sponsored by Coca-Cola. No, no, that’s clearly not true.

The name of the style says a lot. Translated from French, it means new art. This simple fact already introduces two driving factors of Art Nouveau. One is an opposition to academia. The other is the desire to rethink and modernize art but also everyday life. Let’s start with the first one. Much like impressionism and post-impressionism, art nouveau stood in opposition to academia.

In fact, many of its major artists, including Mucha himself, had been rejected by art schools in their youth. Some simply rejected the idea that art should be taught or learnt in schools like a science. So, rather than looking at art championed by academia, art nouveau artists looked to Japanese woodprints or the post-impressionists or even botanical shapes, illustrations of science books and stained glass art.

Rather than focusing on imitating life forms, art nouveau artists focused on stylized aesthetics. Some defining traits include two-dimensionality as well as mited and sombre color schemes. The revolutionary impetus of the art movement also manifested itself in interior and exterior designs. Artists designed furniture and every day objects, as well as sculptures and other decor.

The idea was that there should be a continuum between artworks and the decor, and that this continuum should mark a split from the older, classical styles and antique furniture. In fact, you could say that the popularity of art nouveau was benefited by the general uplift of the middle class and the emergence of a new consumer class, with money to spend for their own interior decorations. In other words, to some extent, art nouveau was popular with both the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy.

Aside from all that, art nouveau is known as the first serious art movement to bring serious attention to the graphic arts. Between 1890 and 1920, it was virtually everywhere, from book illustrations to posters. In fact, some of its most famous artworks are poster series, from the Moulin Rouge ones by Henri Toulouse Lautrec to Mucha’s posters for theatrical productions starring the famed actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Art Nouveau did not simply end in 1910 but with changing times come changing trends. In a way, the many driving objectives of art nouveau were carried on by Art Deco, which emerged just before the first world war. Rather than the flowing, curvy patterns of art nouveau, art deco was defined by straight lines and corners.

On the surface, art nouveau may appear to be more keen on aesthetics and beauty. But many of its most notable artists, including Mucha, found ways to talk about serious themes through his own aesthetics. But more on that later. Not to mention that art nouveau was also quite celebrative of sex and sexuality.

Download the full radio show.

THE ART MOVEMENT – Episode 20 (RADIO SHOW)

Welcome to THE ART MOVEMENT, a radio show about the arts and culture, where all art forms and free thoughts are allowed. The show is hosted by globe-trotting art presenter Matt Micucci, featuring plenty of music, interview clips and thoughts on current events.

Listen to episode 20 via one of the players below.

Download the full show here.

In this episode:

  • Alfons Mucha and art nouveau;
  • Venice International Film Festival 2020 program announced;
  • Orson Welles and Dennis Hopper: unruly geniuses;
  • Thelonious Monk lost album release indefinitely called off.

and more, plus lots of music.

Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!