Friday, June 21, 2013

Epic

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From 1910 to 1928, Czech painter Alfons Mucha, much accredited with the rise of art nouveau, began a new artistic season with the project of the Slav Epic. Over the course of eighteen years, Mucha created twenty large canvases that depict the history of Czechs and other Slavic people. The paintings spurned a new period of nationalism within the Czech Republic, and across all the Slavic people.

The idea came to Mucha after he was asked to design the interior of the Pavilion of Bosnia-Herzegovina for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. In preparation for the project, Mucha traveled throughout the Balkans in order to observe the history and customs of Southern Slavs that had once been annexed by Austria-Hungary. Prior to starting, Mucha also visited the United States in order to secure a benefactor for his ambitious project. In winter 1909, he finalled secured sponsorship from Chicago philanthropist Charles Richard Crane.

Mucha's twenty canvases depict notable, historical events that define the Czech people, and Slavic people as a whole. "The first canvas in the series, The Slavs in Their Original Homeland, was finished in 1912 and the entire series was completed in 1926 with the final canvas, The Apotheosis of the Slavs, which celebrates the triumphant victory of all the Slavs whose homelands in 1918 finally became their very own."

The Epic was presented to the city of Prague in 1928, on the 10th Anniversary of Czech's independence. Up until the past year or so, the works were displayed in chateau in the town of Moravský Krumlov in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic. Today, the twenty large canvases can be seen on display in the National Gallery in Prague. It is quite remarkable to see both Mucha's works of the art nouveau style, and then the contrast with these massive Slavic epics--done in a similar style, but altogether deeper.

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