Rêveur is an 1897 poster by Alphonse Mucha, an artist of the Czech and Central European Art Nouveau period who specialized in illustrations.
Analysis of Mucha’s Rêveur
Alphonse Mucha’s Rêveur, also called Reverie is one of the many posters of the Art Nouveau movement. The art movement was inspired by natural forms and asymmetry. In different parts of the world, the same movement has different names such as Jugendstil in Germany, and began during the 1880s and lasted until approximately 1910. The movement’s main goal was to break down the barriers of art from the academic and allow art to be for all. The word for it was “Gesamtkunstwerk” meaning total work of art.
This meant art that was embodied by every possible pursuit. Richard Wagner popularized this through his operas. He would consider not just the music and performance but even the experience of the theatergoers. This was seen in everyday items such as architecture or as for Mucha, advertisements.
Mucha’s Slav Epic
For Reverie, it was a design for an in-house calendar for a publishing company, Champenois. The woman holds a book of decorative designs. Her dress is a traditional Slavic dress. Mucha was a Czech born in Moravia and he would be obsessed with using Slavic motifs. He would later move on to painting the Slav Epic. It was a cycle of paintings that show the mythology and history of the Slavic people. Mucha’s goal was to unite all the Slavic people.
Reception of Rêveur
Because of the popularity of Reverie, it was reprinted without the title of the business. This would bring a second launch of his career to further heights. Though most likely not the model of said poster, the biggest influence for Mucha was Sarah Bernhardt. She was a stage actress who was known for her flamboyant personality. For example, she would sleep in a coffin and perform male roles like Hamlet. Because of her popularity, Mucha’s career was launched from obscurity for painting her posters.
When he worked on Reveur, he was in the midst of still working with Sarah Bernhardt. Mucha was also a photographer and used photos he had taken for reference. He would eventually move to America. He would find a sponsor there for his Slav Epic and would return to Bohemia. He would finish the Slav Epic and gift it to the City of Prague, under the condition that the paintings would be given a proper building. However, the Slav Epic was toured in Czechoslovakia and then put away.
World War 2
During the second world war, the paintings were kept hidden away until 1962. The Slav Epic can now be seen in the castle of Moravsky Krumlov, still waiting for its own home. Mucha was arrested in 1938 as the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. This was because of the painting of the Slav Epic, which showed the nationalism of the Slavic People. He was released after being questioned but the event led him to a quick decline in health. He died a year later from pneumonia.
Alphonse Mucha was not a traditional artist but would lead the way for illustrative and graphic artists. He elevated art that was considered “low brow”. The Art Nouveau movement would eventually branch out to other subcategories such as Art Deco of the 1920s.