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Alphonse Mucha - Cigarette Job

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Cigarette Job - Alphonse Marie Mucha

The 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, Renй 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,



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