Mucha and the fate of the Slav Epic

Following almost 20 years of hard work and a long journey of ‘cultural excavation’ that took him to Russia and the Balkans, Alphonse Mucha finally completed his masterpiece celebrating the Czech and Slavic people’s legacy: the outcome was a series of twenty large-scale paintings known collectively as “The Slav Epic”, which he handed over to the Czech government in the early 1900s.

These paintings would eventually become the victim of many political and ideological whims till our present day: First they were celebrated by his people, then they were hidden during WWII to avoid looting by the Nazis (who actually interrogated Mucha heavily), then, as Czechoslovakia came under the grip of communism, the paintings became neglected as Mucha came to be considered a bourgeois that showed no committment to socialist values. Later on, the paintings were moved to a small city where they would stay for decades, and finally, Prague wants them! The city rejects, but the paintings are already moved to Prague where they will be exhibited under conditions that might actually do damage to them (from a conservation viewpoint).

While many people know Mucha only through his modernist (art nouveau) posters, The Slav Epic is a good start to admire this artist at a different “scale” (how about 6 meters high and 8 meters wide for a start?)…enjoy the paintings attached (from the Slav Epic) and remeber that for Mucha “art exists only to communicate a spiritual message” as he once said.

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