One of the most famous visual artists was Czech painter Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939). This decorative artist, well known for his recognizable style, produced many paintings, postcards, designs, advertisements and illustrations. Alphonse Mucha was born in the town of Ivancice, Moravia, known today as the area of Czech Republic. He began painting mostly theatrical scenery in Moravia. In 1879 Mucha moved to Vienna to work for a Viennese theatrical company, while he pursued his artistic education. In 1881 he returned back to Moravia doing independent portrait paintings. Mucha was hired by Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov, to paint Hrusovany Emmahof Castle with sceneries, and was fascinated by his work that he sponsored Mucha's training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.
Mucha moved to Paris and continued his studies, while producing advertising demonstrations and designs, for theatre sets which was originally called the Mucha style. Later on it became known as Art Nouveau (New Art). His work featured elegant young women in neoclassical robes, enclosed by profuse flowers, which formed a ring of light behind the women's heads. In comparison with modern poster makers, he used faded pastel colors. Alphonse Mucha's paintings came purely from within. It was his way of sending a spiritual message. When he was young he dreamt of achieving such a series. The series has ben on display since 1963 in the Chateau at Moravsky Krumlovat in the Czech Republic.
The largest of Mucha's Slav Epic canvases measuring more than six by eight meters representing the history of the Slav people. The idea was formed in 1899 while working on the design for the inside of the Pavilion of Bosnia-Herzegovina. To prepare for this assignment, he travelled through the Balkans, examining their history and customs carefully studying the lives of the Southern Slavs in the regions associated by Austria-Hungary two decades previous. From this knowledge, the inspiration for a new design rose, the creation of a legend for all the Slavonic peoples that would illustrate the "joy and sorrows" of his own community and of all the other Slavs. After travelling numerous times to the United Stated, Mucha hoped in finding a contributor who would support his determined project.
In 1909 he obtained sponsorship from a wealthy Chicago-based Philanthropist, Charles Richard Crane. With Crane's high interest in the expansion of political affairs in Easter Europe and Slavonic civilization, financial and moral support to Mucha for nearly twenty years. In the period of 1911 and 1926, Alphonse Mucha spent most of his energy with the creation of the Slav Epic. He rented an apartment and a studio in Zbiroh Castle in Bohemia, so he can benefit in painting large canvases. He was able to reproduce twenty major episodes from the Slavic past, old to new, ten episodes from Czech history and ten others on historical episodes from more Slavonic areas. Mucha's first canvas in the series was The Slavs in Their Original Homeland, which he completed in 1912.
In 1924 he visited Mount Athos and was deeply fascinated by the ancient spiritual atmosphere. In his painting The Holy Athos, he used the combination of real and symbolic visual planes, which he already used in his first three paintings in the series. He designed a form of light to create a strong image of the church interior, with a circle of Russian Pilgrums circulating the interior wall hunched over kissing the relics granted to them by the Igumens in front of the Iconostas. The conversion of the earthly to the heavenly sphere is accomplished but the magnificent athletic figures of the Cherubim carrying replicas of the four Slavic monasteries on Mount Athos.
The forms of the two girl angels hang over the Iconostas indicating faith and purity. The spiritual scene concludes in a mosaic of Theotokos in the apse. By 1926 the entire series was competed with his final canvas The Apotheosis of the Slavs, which celebrates the successful victory of all the Slavs whose homelands became finally their own. The artist died in Prague on July 14th 1939 after he fell ill with pneumonia. He will never be forgotten for his unique and special paintings of the Slav Epic series.