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Alphonse Maria Mucha was born in a modest family in a small town of southern Moravia, named Ivančice. By the time of his birth, July 1860, the region of the Czech Republic was still in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mucha presented his talents for art at an early age and was lucky enough to have free access to paper - which was expensive and hard to find - after a local merchant saw his work and decided to help him. By the age of eleven, he began to sing at the choir of the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral and continued in the art form his entire life. During this time, Mucha was very religious, and his country was taken by a radical Czech nationalism, which affected all artistic areas. Although he was passionate about singing, Mucha knew his true fate was to be a visual artist. In 1878, the young artist faced his first deception in his career, as the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague denied his application, stating that Mucha should find another career path.
At the age of nineteen, Mucha moved to Vienna, where he worked as an apprentice for a theater company, painting the scenery. This period was significant, as he dove into cultural activities, like visiting museums, churches, as well as receiving free tickets for theaters from his work. Mucha came in contact with the artwork of Hans Makart, whose academic art inspired him greatly - especially his massive historical paintings. By this period, the artist began to experiment with photography - an essential element for his future work. After a tragic fire that destroyed one of the main theaters that the company worked for, Mucha was left without a job. In 1881, he found himself forced to migrate, so the moved to southern Moravia in Mikulov where he worked for Count Belasi, a nobleman, in large commissions, as well as painting portraits, lettering for tombstones and decorative art in general. Count Belasi enabled Mucha to take expeditions to Milan, Venice, and Florence, where he came in contact with many artists. Although there is no record of the painter being enrolled at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, it is known that Mucha’s patron brought him to Munich so he could complete his formal training, a location he moved to in 1885.
Because of the rigid restrictions of the Bavarian authorities, Mucha wasn’t able to remain any longer in Munich as an international student, resulting in a move to Paris in 1887 with the Count’s support. In Paris, the artist studied at the prestigious Academie Julian and Academie Colarossi, while he decided to follow in Ludek Marold’s footsteps and work with illustrations for magazines. He would later produce works for books as well. In the summer of 1893, Mucha shared a studio for a while with the Modern painter Paul Gauguin. It was by 1895 that the painter would begin to receive a considerable amount of recognition for his work. He came in contact with Sarah Bernhardt, a French actress, and produced posters for her shows - some of his most famous work, like La Dame aux Camelias, Gismonda, Medée, Lorenzaccio, La Samaritaine, and Hamlet.
Mucha became famous worldwide as an artist of the Art Nouveau, but he didn’t enjoy this very much, as he strived to become a successful historical painter. Along with creating breathtaking egg tempera paintings and vivid posters in lithographic prints, the artist also designed costumes, jewelry, sets, and many times photographed his models as reference. In 1900, he finally had the chance to create his large-scale historical paintings for the Paris Universal Exposition. By the first decade of the 1900s, Mucha traveled to New York, where he was very famous, and back to Paris many times. He continued to produce his paintings during the First World War, although materials were scarce. By the 1930s, the Nazi troops threatened Czechoslovakia, and on March of 1939, they reached Prague. Mucha was captured by the Nazis, where he was interrogated for being a Slav nationalist. After a few days, the artist was let go, but died in July of the same year at the age of 78, after contracting pneumonia.