Alphonse Mucha Cigarette Job

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Cigarette Job - Alphonse Marie MuchaThe purpose of this Essay is to discuss an example of design from the late 1800s, I will relate it to the social, economic, technical and cultural context of that time. . I intend on delivering details of the artist and his life experiences as well as his style and possible interests. I will also evaluate the subject with my own opinion, likes and dislikes, with comparisons of work and artists from within that period up to the present date The design I have chosen to focus on is 'Cigarette Job' (1898) by the great Alphonse Marie Mucha. Alphonse Mucha was born in 1860 in Czechoslovakia and died in 1939. He is most often remembered for the prominent role he played in shaping the aesthetics of French Art Nouveau at the turn of the century, he was in fact the most famous artist of the Art Nouveau period.

His imagery was so inextricably entwined with Art Nouveau that the entire movement was referred to by Goncourt as the 'Mucha Style'. Famous throughout Europe and the Americas, he inspired other artists and designers who copied him and plagiarised him so that for years the image of the Muchaesque beauty surrounded by her characteristic symbols was enshrined in advertising, magazine covers and illustrations, book jackets, posters, paintings and numerous artefacts. Art Nouveau is the Decorative style of the late 19th century and the early 20th that flourished principally in Europe and the USA. Although it influenced painting and sculpture, its chief manifestations were in architecture and the decorative and graphic arts. It is characterized by sinuous, asymmetrical lines based on organic forms; in a broader sense it encompasses the geometrical and more abstract patterns and rhythms that were evolved as part of the general reaction to 19th-century historicism. There are wide variations in the style according to where it appeared and the materials that were employed'Florated madness, liniar hysteria, strange decoratve disease, stylistic free-for-all', such were the terms its contemporaries used to describe Art Nouveau, the first international design style. Art Nouveau was the rebellion against the entire Victorian sensibility, steeped as it was in the past. The exponents of the style hoped to revolutionize every aspect of design in order to set a standard that would be compatible with the new age

Art Nouveau was a direct descendant of the Arts and Crafts movement and influenced by celtic ornament as well as Japanese woodcut prints, all this resulted in an international style based on decoration. In Germany Art Nouveau was known as Jugendstil (young style) and as 'stile liberty' in Italy. Art Nouveau is much greater than acknowledgement of its characteristic organic fluidity and floral motifs would imply. It was an important catalyst in setting aside 19th century historicism and contributed to the development of early concepts of Modernism. While Mucha was a pioneer, many artists contributed to the development of the style during this period such as Louis Comfort Tiffany, Ren'e Lalique, Emile Galle, and others, ushering in the modern, urban era. Lithography at the end of the 19th Century allowed artists to print large solid areas and use colour, and gave them the freedom to draw their own lettering.

Lettering had previously been limited to a restricted range of ready-made type designs. This control over print was the beginning of graphic design. This is the technique that Alphonse Marie Mucha embraced and perfected for his use in poster design. The Poster 'Papier a Cigarette Job' depicts a woman in what appears to be a pale gown with long flowing beautifully illustrated hair and a lit cigarette. Throughout the Posters background the word 'Job' is written many times but its presence is almost un-noticed as it is in fact only a pattern which imitates the shape of the words 'Job'. In a way this could be looked at as some of the early methods of subliminal messaging as would found nowadays in advertising.

The 'dirty blonde' hair is illustrated in swirls around her arm and shows an enormous amount of movement and energy as if it were flowing in the wind, or that it was in fact wind itself. The colour and texture is very pleasing to the eye, and the poster itself is several feet tall. If someone had described this posters colours to me as yellow and purple I would imagine a harsh contrasting image, but, the subtlety with which Mucha has used this palette of colours is fantastic. The woman's hear is very beautiful and provocative, she is holding the cigarette in a sexy manner as if the cigarette has given her great pleasure. Mucha provides a commentary on woman at the time the poster was created (1898).

It objectifies this particular woman, while also showing the rising position of woman in society, in that, she can participate in a traditionally male activity, smoking. While the beauty of this poster cannot be adequately expressed through this medium, in my opinion it is in fact stunning. There is another poster of 'Job' which was also designed by Mucha which follows the same guides of design, it has differences though, some subtle, some striking. The word 'Job' is again echoed throughout the background and and now on the pendant on the womans gown which is now a striking pink colour, and also on the cigarette pack in her hands. The flowing 'windy' hair is still present, with all its organic beauty and the yellow and purple colours are also present however much brighter and not as subtle as the previous poster. One warms to Mucha because he tried so hard to bring art into the lives of the people - his greatest passion - by designing first class posters, advertisements, labels for soap, toothpaste and butter, mosaic panels for municipal swimming pools, crockery, textiles and jewellery. The snake bracelet and ring he designed for Sarah Bernhardt, executed by Fouquet, is perhaps the finest piece of costume jewellery ever created.

He loved Byzantine icons, collected them and copied them. He despised Art Nouveau, or said he did; not unfairly because his was really a style of its own. Anyone interested in design should study how ingeniously Mucha weaves into a single pattern frame and content, figures and decoration, lettering and picture. He formed a commercial love alliance with Sarah Bernhardt, when he designed the poster for the play Gismonda, perhaps the greatest theatre poster ever created - along with Lautrec's Aristide Bruant dans son Cabaret - and thereafter designed all her posters, together with costumes, sets and personal knick knacks. Lautrec's Aristide Bruant dans son Cabaret Mucha's GismondaIn conclusion I found my research into Alphonse Marie Mucha's life an itruiging one, with vibrant design in many areas of the creative industry. This particular pice of artwork I looked at, 'Job' is an absolutely fantastic piece of art, and reminds me that advertising, whether in this day and age or in the past times, is no less art than the work in galleries and the amount of effort should thus be the same.

Mucha's influence is still present to this day, I came across an artwork recently by an artist who was greatly influenced and appreciated the work of Mucha. The artists name is Sam Hogg and this work was created Mar 3, 2004. I am not sure I'm happy with the outcome, it seems to lack delicacy and the colours are too strong. Not to mention her face seems distorted. This gave me more respect for Mucha and all his contemporaries.

Bibliography:1. Alan Livingstone & Isabella Livingstone, The Thames and Hudson dictionary of graphic design and designers, 20032. Arthur Eldridge, Mucha: The triumph of Art Nouveau, 19923. Richard Hollis, Graphic design: A concise History revised and expanded edition, 2012 4. Steven heller and Seymour Chwast, Graphic style: From Victorian to post modern, 1994 ( origionally published 1988).

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