• David Bayer Designs


Knowen to me but by no means well, when the opportunity came to visit an exhibition of Mucha at the Museum of Kyoto I had to check it out. So together with my mother inlaw Masako we hit the town.

Walking Higashikata machi the museum's European frontage can't be missed. Entering into a large foyer with an eternal craft market humming away we traversed through to the refurbished modern wing of the museum, paid about 1,500 yen before heading up to the exhibition itself.

Exiting the elevator we were greeted by Mucha's work immediately. Prints hanging floor to ceiling stood guard along the entrance to the exhibition itself. Intricate, supreme art nouveau one after the other. Use of thick solid linework to draw focus on subjects that I had never seen before, use of colour that I would dream of mastering with subtle shadowing almost unnoticed. I dug into my bag for a notebook and pencil my mother inlaw grinning happily resigned that this could be a long morning.

The more I saw the more I came to realize how influential Mucha had been on modern graphic design, the psychedelic movement and Japanese manga from the 60s till today.

Alphonse Mucha

A bit about the man himself, Alphonse Mucha was born on 24 July 1860 in the small town of Ivancice in southern Moravia. Mucha went on to become an illustrator and graphic artist, living in Paris during the Art Nouveau period, best known for his distinctly stylized and decorative theatrical posters, particularly those of Sarah Bernhardt. He produced illustrations, advertisements, decorative panels, and designs, which became among the best-known images of the period.

Sarah Bernhardt 1896

In 1894 Mucha took Sarah Bernhardt as his muse. The poster he created was a watershed moment in the history of popular art changing both of their lives forever. Launching his star as an artist and giving her a career boost as well.

Mucha wanted his art to enhance his life, celebrations of the natural world and women.

But as a graphic artist and designer myself, it was the discovery that day of Mucha the master graphic designer that really opened my eyes. Beautiful advertising banners designed one hundred years ago that expressed a sophisticated glamorous world and defined how the world shopped in the early 20th century. From wine to soda, biscuits to chocolate Mucha brought a sense of style to the new world of advertising.


Towards the end of the exhibition before the souvenier jungle with an exit beyond, I came across a room of more modern work Jimi Hendrix posters followed by the Little river band, Led Zeppelin, Cheech and Chong, pink Floyd and Rush a gold mine of 70s psychedelic poster art.

After the past hour in the mind of Mucha, the influence of him on the psychedelic genre was so overwhelming and obvious. Seeing the birth of a style and its return after so much time was a testament to Mucha and maybe to the fact that drugs were in heavy use in both eras. Drugs and art Neuvoue seem to go hand in hand.

The same can be said for early Japanese manga of the 60s and 70s. An art nouveau style prevailed that set the design standard for the form that persists till this day. Female subjects juxtaposed with nature and these days high technology. The culture may have changed but there is something primal to the style that is universal.

An exciting day discovering an artist I thought I knew but had never really seen before.

Masako and I finished with a cafe, crepes and conversation on Mucha the father of modern graphic design.


Sub and comment......egg.

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