Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Slav Epic

-By Jesper Ejsing

I have been a fan of Alphonse Mucha for very long. He is from Prague and I always wanted to go there and see the museum. But never seemed to get the chance or the excuse... not until last weekend.

When the Event Coordinators of Magic the gathering Grand Prix asked if I would come to Prague and sign magic cards during the tournament, I answered Yes, right away, in my mind I said “Mucha, Mucha, Mucha” over and over again. I even arranged for the travels to be a day in advance so I could spend the whole friday in the museum.

I dropped everything at the hotel and started walking through the old city. I found the museum, even without a map, and went in, stomach tingling and eyes wide open. “I have never been more disappointed. There was no originals, only framed posters and lithographs. And it was one little floor with three rooms. In the shop I bought some books and went home.

Turned out it was the wrong museum. It was a lithography and poster expo. Facebook is a fantastic place for getting help. As soon as I shared my error, a friend told me he would show me some real Mucha in my lunchbreak the next day.

He came around at one to pick me up and the other artist that was also signing cards, Seb Mckinnon join us without hesitation, when he heard where we was going. We picked up sandwiches, ate on the way rushed into the museum, less than 500m from the Magic show and BAM!
Slav epic hit me in the groin!

Look at the size of this!
Few have been the artwork that brings tears to my eye ( and it is always Krøyer ) but Muchas giant paintings brought me literally to my knees, laughing hysterically. I have never in my life seen more impressive paintings.

You can read all about Mucha and these paintings on the internet. I am not going to try to sound knowingly about any of this. But imagine what it feels like to be watching illustrations in oil on canvas 4 meters high and 8 meters wide.

I noticed right away how light the colors were. There was no black at all, and gone was the classic art nouveau shapes and twirls.

I think I will change my painting style and way of drawing after this experience. I cannot help but think how much time I have wasted fooling around with dark colors close to black for no reason at all. I will start sketching for more simple and solid shapes within my figures and add more drama to the poses. I will focus on building up paintings with less noise and more minimal silhouettes… In other words I will try to be more Mucha.

The dotted texture in the grey of the sky is all small dots of paint. ( the 2 women in the bottom are larger than me )
I wish every artist out there had a chance to go see these paintings. They are finally collected all together in Prague and will be in the Veletržní palác until the end of 2014.


  1. You are very fortunate. I have only seen these images in my books to see them in person would be amazing. As much as I love his art nouveau stylings; the work he did on these is remarkable, even in a book. It is a goal in my life to get to see them in person. Thanks for sharing this experience. very awesome.

  2. Sounds like a must-do for all european artists. Nice article Ejsing

  3. Thanks for this. I've never actually seen this side of Mucha.
    Makes me appreciate Mucha all the more!

  4. I'm a huge fan of Mucha, sad to say though, I live in Germany but have never been to Prague, even though it's only about a ten hour drive from here.
    Theres a 6 part mini docu on Alphonse Mucha on youtube though heres the link:

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  6. Jesper, I'm so glad you got to see these in person. It is so wonderful to see art that has inspired you in its actual form instead of merely in a book or on a screen. I really wish I could see these Mucha paintings up close - I've always been drawn to his style, but also his treatment of the figure and color. I'm looking forward to seeing how this experience will affect your work in the future!

  7. Your account brought tears to MY eyes.

  8. So glad you got to see the originals up close and personal! I was very fortunate several years ago when there was a show of Mucha's works in Memphis - I went several times to sketch and drool - The size of his works just blows your mind - even his posters were huge. But you are so right, his Slav Epic series is so emotional - he considered it his most important work. At the Memphis show, there were several pieces that he only partially completed and it was great to see some of his process. Love Mucha!

  9. Does anyone know if Pyle's students studied Mucha? Mr. Gurney, if you read this, do you know anything about it? When I look at the last one, with the starry night sky, I can't help but see a possible influence on painters such as Frank Frazetta and Jeffrey Jones. The shadow shapes are so graphic and sculptural.

  10. Fantastic. I want to go, really bad. I love the feeling of going to a museum coming away with an overwhelming feeling that I want to be better and do whatever it takes to get there. To change and improve, riding that wave of inspiration. So, I loved reading your experience of wanting to change the way you paint after seeing Mucha's epic.

    I am headed to New York tomorrow and am going to the Met and Frick and I anticipate coming away with that same increased rush of energy and enthusiasm to work hard and create. Thanks for the reminder of what it coming. :)

  11. Fantastic! I've only ever seen photos of the Slav Epic online and in books, I've always wanted to see them in person, and one day I hope to.

  12. Thanks for this. This might be at the top of my list of art places to go to when I get back to Europe. Is this the permanent location or are they moving? I keep hearing things about these being move around.

  13. it says on the homepage of the museum that they will be ther euntil end of 2014

  14. hello do you have a name for the museum or the adress?

  15. I live not far from there. I should go see this on a day off, thanks for the article!

    Just some further info:
    It is available till 12 December 2015 and tickets are 180CZK. Closed on Mondays.