Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mucha’s "Le Pater"

Half-naked figures prostrate themselves in misty gorges, struggling and writhing before serene spirits of light.

Among Alphonse Mucha’s greatest achievements in his mature years were his seven pictures from the Lord’s Prayer, known as the “Pater Noster” or “Le Pater.”

He created a separate image for each line of the prayer. Above are the images for “Thy kingdom come,” and “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Mucha visualized the familiar prayer as a universal expression of humankind’s relationship with the divine, mixing traditional Catholic devotion with an Asiatic-tinged occult mysticism.
Above: “Lead us not into temptation” and the cover.

The Century magazine in 1904 described Mucha’s unique conception of God as “no longer the benign or wrathful Father, but a mysterious Being whose shadow fills the earth. Nature is personified as a luminous, adolescent giant, and Love descends from heaven in the guise of a woman.”

You can see all seven images, as well as the decorative elements and calligraphy Mucha produced for the cover and the intervening pages at this website.
Quote from: “Alfons Mucha and the New Mysticism,” by Christian Brinton, Century Magazine, 1904.
Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) on Wikipedia
Lines and Colors update on Mucha with a LOT of helpful links 
Good reproductions of all seven pictures in the Belvedere Catalog 


grobles63 said...

Very beautiful. J.C. Leyendecker did a similar thing with Psalm 23. I saw It in the first book published of his work by M Shau which is out of print now.

grobles63 said...

I'm sorry I misspelled the authors name, that should say Michael Schau

EZ Goodnight said...

Gorgeous. I'm always excited to see more of Mucha's work and these weren't included in any book or webpage I've ever read.

James Gurney said...

EZ, yes, I had a bunch of books on Mucha, and some of them showed one or two of the "Le Pater" images, but I never knew what they were about. The new exhibition catalog published by Belvedere has all seven nicely reproduced with Mucha's explanations.

Apparently they were Mucha's favorites of all his illustration work. One of the reasons he did them was to change gears from the Art Nouveau design style guides he had been doing, which just led to people saying "Can you design me a set of silverware sort of like the ones in your style book?"

Rob Rey said...

Love these, I was looking for a few page of this that I was missing.

Great how, by breaking the mold and mixing styles, he reminds the reader of the metaphor in the prayer rather than the supposed "fact."

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of Mucha's work ever since I studied the Art Noveau period in History of Art back in highschool, but I wasn't aware he had produced such beautiful illustrations towards the end!

I wonder how did it go with the more conservative, religious views mr
Mucha's interpretation of God?

thanks for sharing this!

eric said...

wow, this artwork is truly epic!

never heard of this artist or artwork, thanks

amazing what can be done with limited to no color

Chris Dunn said...

Thanks for the reminder to find a book featuring Mucha's later work. For me, Le Pater and his Slav Epics are far superior to the the Art Nouveau adverts he became well known for.

SVSART said...

Looking at Mucha's work embodies all the reasons I fell in love with art and wanted to be an artist... It's nice to be reminded of those reasons, to refocus and renew.

Unknown said...

Hello Mr Gurney. First of all, thanks a lot for sharing your wonderful artwork (I am an fan!).

Just a precision about "Le Pater" from Alphonse Mucha.

You said that he is "mixing traditional Catholic devotion with an Asiatic-tinged occult mysticism".
In fact it's totally different.
Mucha a this time of his life was already a master freemason (initiated in Paris, in a lodge of the Grand Orient of France) and the Pater is probably the most masonic of his works. In the french version (the other one is in czech and been "cleaned" of all the masonic references) he is quite clear about it, always naming God as an "superior entity", as french irregular freemasonry does.
Nothing really asiatic in "Le Pater" only deeply spiritual and masonic.
a very good book have been done about this work only, called "Mucha, le Pater. Illustrations pour le Notre Père" by the somogy art editions with the collaboration of the Neumann foundation. Hope this will help. Thanks again. Christophe

Petr Mores said...

As Mucha's countryman, I have to add a note: all of the Czech artists (or any other small nation's, for that matter) that achieved world fame were the ones who lived and worked abroad. Other examples include, in the case of Czechs, director Milos Forman, writer Milan Kundera and others. There have been equally talented and capable people who chose to remain at home and are now half-forgotten even in their coutries. There are treasures waiting to be unearthed. Therefore I think it is great that Mr. Gurney often mentions for example Russian painters like Levitan or Shishkin (this is not to say that Russia is a small country, but it is true that its cultural history is largely ignored in the West, especially in visual art).

James Gurney said...

Kiwifrog: You're right that Mucha was greatly influenced by Freemasonry. My use of the phrase "Asiatic-tinged" is loosely quoted from Century magazine's 1904 contemporary account of Mucha's mysticism: "...this element, coupled with an active interest in the occult, gives a sacerdotal, Asiatic tinge to panel, poster, or painting." Japanese influences especially very strongly inspired decorative arts during Mucha's period.

Roberto said...

Mucha is an amazing artist! His work demonstrates the convergence of the decorative arts, illustration, abstraction, and classical figurative drawing/ painting… and shows how important good design is to any style. His body of work is powerfully creative and technically consistently very high. One of the giants in my opinion. -RQ