It was 120 years ago that the talented but relatively unknown young artist Alphonse Mucha was catapulted to international fame after a chance encounter in a Paris print shop found him designing a poster for superstar actress Sarah Bernhardt.
Such was the power of his work publicising her new play Gismonda that the public clamoured for copies. As soon as the image appeared on the streets of the French capital on New year’s day 1895 people were cutting them from hoardings and bribing bill-posters to hand them over. Bernhardt, at the height of her fame, immediately signed Mucha to a six year contract.
What a bohemian life we lead!I’m in Paris leaning on a grave in the Père Lachaise cemetery chuckling as my wife photographs a man’s erection. Right! Now I have your attention let me explain. The man in question is in effigy form.
A unique insight into the work of one of the most radical painters of the 19th century and the creative circles of Parisian society in which he moved is offered in Manet: Portraying Life, the first major UK exhibition to showcase Edouard Manet’s portraiture.
The show, which highlights Manet’s portraiture, opens at London’s Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday (Jan 26. It examines the relationship between his portrait painting and his scenes of modern life and is already set to break records. By casting his sitters as actors in his genre scenes, Manet guaranteed the authenticity of the figures that populate his paintings and asserted a new, more potent relationship between Realism and Modernity.
Manet: Portraying Life includes over 50 paintings spanning the career of this archetypal modern artist together with a selection of pastels and contemporary photographs. It brings together works from both public and private collections across Europe, Asia and the USA.