10th Anniversary of the National Art Center, Tokyo
The year of Czech culture 2017

Alfons Mucha

The Slavs in their Original Homeland

The Slav Epic
The Slavs in their Original Homeland

1912, oil and tempera on canvas
610 x 810 cm, Prague City Gallery
©Prague City Gallery

The Flowers

The Flowers: Carnation
The Flowers: Lily
The Flowers: Rose
The Flowers: Iris
1897, Lithograph on paper, Sakai city

Overview

2017 celebrates the 60th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Czech Republic.

Alfons Mucha (1860-1939) was born in Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic). He was a prolific artist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and a key figure in the Art Nouveau movement. His unique style influenced an entire generation of painters, graphic artists, and designers.

Mucha was catapulted into artistic stardom following the release of his unique promotional poster design for famed French actress Sarah Bernhardt’s lead role in Gismonda in 1894. The incredible success of that innovative poster transformed Mucha into an artistic icon overnight. Part of Mucha’s appeal was his adaptability across artistic mediums. He produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially “The Mucha Style”, but became known as Art Nouveau.

Mucha was a strong patriot of his Czech homeland which motivated him in the creation of his monumental series to which it would be hard to find a parallel elsewhere in the world. Mucha moved to Bohemia in 1910 where he began, The Slav Epic - a series of 20 large-format canvases (the largest measuring over 6 by 8 meters) depicting the history of the Slav people and civilization. Mucha conceived it as a monument for all the Slavonic peoples and he devoted the latter half of his career to the realization of this project.

This exhibition of The Slav Epic is the first time in the world all 20 pieces have been displayed together outside of the Czech Republic along with 80 other amazing exhibits from across Alfons Mucha career.

Date March 8 (Wed.) – June 5 (Mon.), 2017
Closed on Tuesdays (except for May 2)
Opening hours 10:00-18:00
*10:00-20:00 on Fridays and April 29 (Sat.) – May 7 (Sun.)
(Last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Venue The National Art Center, Tokyo (Kokuritsu-Shin-Bijutsukan), Special Exhibition Gallery 2E
7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-8558
Organized by The National Art Center, Tokyo, City of Prague, Prague City Gallery, NHK, NHK Promotions Inc. and The Asahi Shimbun
With the support of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tokyo and Czech Centre
With the sponsorship of ITOCHU Corporation and Nissha Printing Co., Ltd.
With the special cooperation of Sakai City
With the cooperation of Lufthansa Cargo AG
Admission
(tax included)
General 1,600 yen (Adults), 1,200 yen (College students), 800 yen (High school students)
Advance/Group 1,400 yen (Adults), 1,000 yen (College students), 600 yen (High school students)
  • Visitors who are under junior high school students and disabled people with ID booklets (along with the one assistant) will be admitted for free.
  • Free entrance to the exhibition for high school students from March 18 (Sat.) to March 20 (Mon.), 2017, upon presenting students ID.
  • Advance tickets on sale from November 2 (Wed.) until March 7 (Tue.), 2017 (only until March 6 (Mon.) at the National Art Center, Tokyo).

【Limited Advance Ticket】

Special advance ticket which includes entry into both the "Alfons Mucha" and "Yayoi Kusama:
My Eternal Soul" exhibitions for 2,400 yen (tax included).

“Alfons Mucha” exhibition: March 8 – June 5, 2017
"Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul” exhibition: February 22 - May 22, 2017.

This advance ticket is on sale from November 2, 2016 until February 21, 2017.
The ticket is available through the exhibition website , as well as other major ticket agencies, fees may apply. (This service is only available in Japanese).
※You cannot purchase this limited advance ticket from the National Art Center Tokyo.

  • Tickets both Advance and General are available through The National Art Center, Tokyo (only on open days), exhibition website (ONLINE TICKETS), and other major ticket agencies. Service charges may apply. (These service are only available in Japanese.)
  • Group tickets will only be available at the venue and discounts only applicable to groups of 20 people or more.
  • Reduction (100 yen off) applies to visitors who present the ticket stub of a concurrent exhibition at The National Art Center, Tokyo, Suntory Museum of Art or Mori Art Museum (Art Triangle Roppongi).
  • For Students, faculty and staff, of “Campus Members”, group discounts apply to purchasing tickets.
  • Credit card (UC, Master Card, VISA, JCB, AMEX, Diners Club, DISCOVER) , e-cash (Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, etc.), iD, J-Debit and Union Pay are available for purchasing tickets.
Inquiries Tel : +81 (0)3-5405-8686 (Hello Dial)

Outline

◎Alfons Mucha’s Art Nouveau

There are few names as synonymous with the Art Nouveau era as Alfonse Mucha. Born in 1860 in Moravia (part of the modern-day Czech Republic), Mucha would go on to revolutionize artistic creation by fully embracing the age of Art Nouveau design through the myriad of projects he undertook.

Like every aspiring artist of the day, Mucha ended up in Paris in 1887 where he studied at the Academie Julian. He fed off of the enthusiasm for artistic innovation alongside the rich colors and modern forms of the late 19th-cenutry world, as arts were embracing the “new art” of Art Nouveau, one that blended ideas of art and design and emphasized the importance of the creative process.

Mucha was catapulted into artistic stardom following the release of his promotional poster design for famed French actress Sarah Bernhardt’s lead role in Gismonda in 1894. The incredible success of that innovative poster transformed Mucha into an artistic icon overnight. Bernhardt was so pleased that she began a six-year contract with Mucha and soon his work became known as the epitome of Art Nouveau. Part of Mucha’s appeal was his adaptability across artistic mediums. He produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially “The Mucha Style”, but became known as “Art Nouveau”.

Throughout his life Mucha was unhappy with his style being labeled as “Art Nouveau” and tirelessly tried to disassociate himself from the movement. He always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of his personal artistic spirit and Czech heritage.

Self-Portrait
1888, Pencil on paper
28.5×19.2 cm, Sakai City
Gismonda
1895, Lithograph on paper
217.9×75cm, Sakai City
Snake Bracelet with a Ring
1899, Gold, enamel, opal and diamond
27.5×6.8cm, Sakai City
The Flowers: Carnation
1897, Lithograph on paper
110×44cm, Sakai City
The Flowers: Lily
1897, Lithograph on paper
109.5×44.7cm, Sakai City
The Flowers: Rose
1897, Lithograph on paper
109.8×44.8cm, Sakai City
The Flowers: Iris
1897, Lithograph on paper
09.5×44cm, Sakai City
The Arts: Poetry
1898, Lithograph on paper
59.7×37.8cm, Sakai City
The Arts: Dance
1898, Lithograph on paper
60×38.7cm, Sakai City
The Arts: Painting
1898, Lithograph on paper
60.5×38.7cm, Sakai City
The Arts: Music
1898, Lithograph on paper
59.7×38.5cm, Sakai City

◎Celebration of the Fin de Siècle

The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in Europe was the time of the Industrial Revolution with many epoch-making inventions, the use of electricity, the boom of mechanical engineering and the first automobiles. In those days World Expositions were the platforms where state-of-the-art science and technology from around the world was brought together. The “Exposition Universelle” of 1900 was a world's fair held in Paris, France to celebrate the achievements of the past century and to accelerate development into the next. The style that was universally present in the exposition was Art Nouveau.

Alfons Mucha was at the top of his fame at the time. His gripping and energizing art earned even more international praise when he created the décor for the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion at the “Exposition Universelle”. Mucha said, "I think the “Exposition Universelle” made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts.”

With the industrial revolution and the increased development of consumerism in the late 19th century, printing techniques became increasingly sophisticated. By the early 20th century, the streets of Paris were decorated with all kind of posters. Alfons Mucha, following his success with Bernhardt, emerged as its shining star. With his new status came a multitude of commissions, especially from the luxury industry. Capturing the essence of the fin-de-siècle spirit, Mucha soon became an internationally recognized designer and artist, expanding his unique style to paintings, jewelry and interior design. He became a very influential designer of the Art Nouveau movement, although Mucha didn’t identify with the term.

The Slav Unity
1910-11, oil on canvas
120×120cm, Prague City Gallery
Design for the Mural of the Bosnia and Hercegovina Pavilion at the Exposition Universelle (Paris 1900)
1899-1900, Indian ink on paper
137.3× 312.2cm, Sakai City
With Our Own Strength II
1911, oil on canvas
115×95cm, Prague City Gallery

◎The Fight for National Independence

The turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries was characterized by a fight for national independence of small nations. In the Czech lands, resistance against the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the germanization of their homeland was growing stronger.

Alfons Mucha was a great patriot, and while in Paris he was continually disappointed that nobody knew anything about his homeland. Ironically, it was a commission from the Austrian government, the very power from which the Czechs wanted to liberate themselves, that provided the initial impetus for Mucha’s move to Bohemia in 1910. In 1899, he was charged with designing various displays for Austria’s presence at the 1900 Paris Exposition, specifically inside the pavilion for the newly annexed territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This commission reawakened Mucha’s interest in the Pan-Slavism of his youth, and in the culture and history of other Slavic countries.

Mucha’s main priority after returning to Prague was the patriotic Slav Epic a series of large-scale canvases, heavily influenced by the Pan-Slavic history. He intended this series to educate the Slavic people in the hopes of inspiring them in the common cause of independence. After Czechoslovakia was established in 1918, Mucha became a fervent supporter of the newly-founded democracy and designed the country’s first postage stamps and banknotes.

Princess Hyacinth
1911, Lithograph on paper
125.5×85cm, Sakai City
6th Sokol Festival
1922, Lithograph on paper
166.1×80.4cm, Sakai City
8th Sokol Festival
1925, Lithograph on paper
122.3×82.2cm, Sakai City

◎The Slav Epic

A monumental series to which it would be hard to find a parallel elsewhere in the world, The Slav Epic is a series of twenty large-format canvases (the largest measuring over 6 by 8 meters) depicting the history of the Slav people and civilization. Mucha was convinced that the future of any nation depends on the knowledge of its past.

The concept of the series was steeped in Pan-Slavism with its notions of shared Slavic history, a sense of unity among Slavic people, and hopes of creating an independent Slavic nation. Mucha regarded it as a monument for all the Slavonic peoples and he devoted the latter half of his career to the realization of this work.

Mucha visited the United States in the hope of finding a benefactor who would support his ambitious project and in 1909, he secured sponsorship from Charles R. Crane, a wealthy Chicago businessman and philanthropist. Crane was intensely interested in the development of political affairs in Eastern Europe and Slavonic culture and he was to provide financial to Mucha for almost twenty years.

Between 1912 and 1926 Mucha’s energy was taken up with the creation of The Slav Epic. In the series, he depicted twenty key episodes from the Slavic past, ancient to modern, ten of which depict episodes from Czech history and ten on historical episodes from other Slavonic regions. Mucha and Crane officially presented the complete series of The Slav Epic to the City of Prague as a gift to the nation, coinciding with the 10th Anniversary of its independence.

The Slavs in their Original Homeland
1912, Egg tempera and oil on canvas
610 x 810 cm, Prague City Gallery
©Prague City Gallery
The Introduction of the Slavonic Liturgy
1912, Egg tempera and oil on canvas
610 x 810 cm, Prague City Gallery
©Prague City Gallery
The Coronation of the Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan as East Roman Emperor
1923, Egg tempera and oil on canvas
405 x 480 cm, Prague City Gallery
©Prague City Gallery
The Oath of Omladina under the Slavic Linden Tree
1926 (unfinished), Egg tempera and oil on canvas
390 x 590 cm, Prague City Gallery
©Prague City Gallery
The Apotheosis of the Slavs
1926, Egg tempera and oil on canvas
480 x 405 cm, Prague City Gallery
©Prague City Gallery