Friday, January 30, 2009

Mucha and hallucinogenics

It's been a busy January and I haven't gotten around to a post in a while but hopefully it's worth the wait...

The first time I saw a work by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) in one of my Graphic Design II text books, I was totally blown away by the art nouveau style that he represented. Mucha began designing posters for French actresses at the turn of the century and though his style was unconventional, he became a pop icon and influenced many aspects of French culture, from clothing to architecture -- referred to as "Le style Mucha."

I'm trying to find out where Mucha studied and where he got his inspiration, but it was around this time that artists and writers such as Hemmingway and Van Gogh were experimenting with absinthe -- a hallucinogenic drink popular in France, described as a "flavoured distilled liquor, emerald green in colour, turning to cloudy, opalescent white when mixed with water." I hear you can still get it in Amsterdam and it pretty much makes you psychotic but rumor has it that Hemmingway wrote "For Whom the Bell Tolls" high on the juice.
Aside the fact that Mucha did commissioned work for Absinthe, it is easy to assume from the overly-dramatic figures and magical quality of his work that he was on something.

There is no doubt that art nouveau posters such as Mucha's inspired '60s and '70 psychedelic poster art (See Dead poster) or at least best represented that movement; and art nouveau is as fresh today as it was at the turn of the century.

I'll be posting my response to art noveau in a series of poster art within the next week, with the first one coming very soon.

Stay tuned.

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