C IS FOR CZECH REPUBLIC
Everyone knows Mucha for his highly ornamental portrait of Art Nouveau ladies. They’re great and all, and I loved them when I was a teen. But after a bunch of years in design school, one too many Adolf Loos essays, and a lot of Marxist ennui, I do not relate to them as much anymore: they’re beautiful but too decorative, too pure, too transcendent. Which is why I was so surprised to find this little known late work by Mucha which so strongly counterpoints his decorative works. It portrays a very earthly woman in a state of anguish. This is a fragment of the picture, in the full image the woman is sitting in the middle of a snowed-in field, with no horizon in sight, and a glistening orb above her. It is one of the paintings in Mucha’s Slav Epic, a series on which he had been working to show the history and folklore of the Slavic people and Czech people in particular, and considered to be his main oeuvre. I’m not exactly sure what is happening in the picture in terms of events, but it’s easy to imagine that a Slavic woman would have a hard life and a hell lot of snow around her. Perhaps she is lost in the snow and sees a guiding star that will lead her home? Or has some sort of epiphany? Anyway, it’s beautiful, and so unexpected.