Friday, May 29, 2009

Mucha! Mucha!

I don't think I've really talked much about it, but Maddie and I are taking classes at the Austro-American Institute of Education with the students. We go for two hours each morning and talk about Austrian topics like minorities and political parties, and relative clauses and indefinite articles. I always do my homework and I still don't make much sense. Maddie doesn't ever do her homework and she's still the star pupil. Harrrumph. This week she got points for correctly identifying the aria being sung next door. Show off.
But I was actually going to talk about Thursday when we cut class to go to the Lower Belvedere. With apologies to Herr Dr. Wassertheuer, German grammar we have with us always, but Alfons Mucha is gone after this weekend. We met Rob and took the streetcar over to this building where even the basement staircase and the faucet and the hand dryers were hip and artsy and they played peppy music in the bathroom stalls.
Alfons Mucha was Czech, and is best known for his Art Noveau posters of Sarah Bernhardt, cigarettes, champagne, and chocolate. He is an early and interesting case of blurring the lines between art and graphic arts and commercialism. Rob and I knew that we liked his posters, but the exhibition had many drawings and studies and books that he'd illustrated. We loved the chairs he designed, and the interior of a French jewelry store. We loved the jewelry he designed (there was a pendant picturing a waterfall made entirely of different blue enamels and diamonds and gorgeous opal rings). Maddie's favorite was the interior mural for the Bosnian/Herzogovinian pavilion at the world fair -- they'd recreated it in a room complete with window panels. He also made twenty immense canvases representing the glories of the Slavs (called the Slav Epic) and they had two on display. Politically he was a huge advocate for his people (he also did panels in the Prague Municipal house illustrating the virtues of the slavs), and spiritually he attempted a reconciliation between the Christianity and Occultism which were at odds in his day (his printing of _The Lord's Prayer_ was really something). He'd be worth a lot more study, but at least we gave him a couple of hours.
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