|Job, 1896, color lithograph on paper mounted on linen|
All images courtesy of the Dhawan Collection
|Cycles Perfecta, 1902, color lithograph on paper|
The show is drawn from California's extensive private Dhawan Collection of Mucha's art, comprised mainly of lithographic posters that advertised products and events, and augmented by a handful of original drawings, one oil on canvas, numerous illustrated books, and a few other objects, such as a perfume bottle and early Czech currency that Mucha designed. With 70 pieces in all, it is an impressive enough display that my friends who had recently visited the Mucha museum in Prague were suitably gratified by our trip to The Hyde.
|The Slav Epic (Slovanska Epopei), 1928|
color lithograph on paper mounted in linen
It was also instructive to discover that Mucha's career was entwined with that of Sarah Bernhardt, who gave him his first big break and for whom he designed many beautiful posters over the years. The centerpiece of Master of Art Nouveau is a set of three examples of the original advertising lithograph that Mucha made on short order for a Bernhardt show, thus earning her loyalty. These include a trial proof in red ink only; a trial proof in black; and the 7-foot-tall full-color litho, made unique by a clever pencil drawing (known as a "remarque") that depicts a reading dog (complete with spectacles), and shows off the deceptively easy-looking command of line that marks all of Mucha's work. Don't be fooled - this artist worked very hard so that we don't have to, allowing our eyes to rove effortlessly over the exquisitely rendered forms and textures of his subjects.
|Gismonda with remarque by Mucha|
1894 color lithograph on paper
mounted on linen
In Master of Art Nouveau, we are also treated to less developed works in the form of drawings and sketches, which provide a window into the artist's process and, in a few cases, onto his more personal side. Additionally, there are the original banknotes that reminded me of another time and place, when a nation would celebrate its most famous artist in the most public and intimate way imaginable. After all, wouldn't you like to have a Rothko or a Rockwell in your wallet?
It is also worth noting that The Hyde has a fresh installation of 20th-century art in its Feibes & Schmitt Gallery through May 6, and some fine examples of prints and photographs in a selection of recent acquisitions on view in the smaller Hoopes Gallery through April 1. Both exhibitions provide wonderful opportunities for lovers of modern art.
|Praha-Parisi cover for 1900 World’s Fair, 1900, lithograph on paper|