Laurel, Alphonse Mucha. Paris, 1901. Colour lithograph, 53 x 39.5 cm.
Alphonse Maria Mucha (24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939) was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist. Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewellery, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was initially called the Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau. Mucha's works frequently featured beautiful, healthy young women in flowing, vaguely neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind the women's heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used paler pastel colours. The 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris diffused the "Mucha style" internationally. He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated in the Austrian one. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. However, this was a style that Mucha attempted to distance himself from throughout his life; he insisted always that, rather than adhering to any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings came purely from within and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more; hence his frustration at the fame he gained through commercial art, when he wanted always to concentrate on more lofty projects that would ennoble art and his birthplace.