Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939)
Museum no. E.260-1921
Mucha's posters are probably the best-known works of Art Nouveau. His combination of a beautiful female figure, rich decoration and extravagant lettering seems to define the style and the era. They radiate luxury and pleasure.
This poster advertises a brand of cigarette papers called Job. The brand name is written in a kind of mosaic, which is partially obscured by the figure. It is also repeated in a clever 'logo' which adorns the background. The mosaic theme re-emerges around the border as a kind of built-in frame. This would have made the poster stand out among other images.
The woman's hair coils into impossible whiplash lines and ornamental spirals. It takes on the appearance of decoration. The plume of smoke, too, zigzags across the image as a kind of pattern. This use of realistic elements as decoration crops up frequently in Art Nouveau. Mucha took this to its extreme, using 'formless' materials such as hair and smoke to unleash radical new decorative forms.
Although created over a century ago, this is a very modern piece of advertising. The product itself hardly features in the poster. Even the brand name is hardly readable. Instead Mucha gives us a simple image of pleasure in the figure of the woman. Only subtle hints connect this pleasure with a product to be purchased. This may be one of the first advertising images to appeal to the subconscious mind, in a way that is commonplace today.
This poster can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box TOPIC 21b.