Born in Ivancice, Moravia near the city of Brno in the modern day Czech Republic, Alphonse Mucha began his artistic training taking drawing lessons at the Academy of Visual Arts in Prague and continued his studies in Munich. In 1890, the young artist moved on to Paris and enrolled in the Academie Julien where he was the student of J. P. Laurens, Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre.
While in Paris, Mucha began to draw illustrations for books and magazines. In 1894, almost overnight, based on a poster he designed for a play starring Sarah Bernhardt, Gismonda, he became a success. Although widely regarded as one of the premier artists of the Art Nouveau period, Mucha shared much in philosophy and artistic temperament with the artists of the Symbolist movement. The composition of his posters was influenced by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Carlos Schwabe and the atmosphere surrounding the Salons de la Rose + Croix as well as by Byzantine and Japanese art. Although most renowned for his poster designs, the artist himself set more store by his other projects. In 1898-1899, he did a series of illustrations for The Lord's Prayer adding personal comments which echoed those of the founder of the Rose + Croix, Joseph Peladan. The crowning achievement of his career was the monumental series, The Slav Epic; twenty huge canvases that marked his return to the history painting of his youth.
The present work is part of a series of four panels which were probably intended as over-doors for the Berges family. Mucha was great friends with Madame Berges (fig. 1) and spent time with the family in their home outside of Grenoble. The four panels depict the four seasons (figs. 2-4) and were sold at the Grenoble auction in 1973, and subsequently the set was broken up. Winter is the most important of the four, as it is larger than the other three and was most likely intended to be placed over a double French door.
All of the panels in the set are painted with a broad brushstroke, perhaps to take into account that the panels would be seen from a distance.
We are grateful to John Mucha for confirming the authenticity of this work.
We are grateful to Robert Haas for his help in preparing this catalogue note.
(fig.1) Grosvenor Gallery advertisement, Apollo Magazine, featuring the Portrait of Mme Berges and Femme à l'embleme, Winter.
(fig. 2) Alphonse Mucha, Femme à la colombe, Spring, c. 1903.
(fig. 3) Alphonse Mucha, Femme à la fleur, Summer c. 1903.
(fig. 4) Alphonse Mucha, Femme au ruban, Autumn, c. 1903.