The inner machinations of Mucha in Prague

You've probably wracked your brain trying to answer this one before — what do I DO in Prague?

What am I supposed to do, after I've looked at an entire city's worth of the most beautiful architecture, promenades, and public sculpture? I've already seen the astrological clock set into motion by a symbol of death! I've walked the Charles bridge at sun up, sun down, and midday just to see how the light hits the water at all hours! I've eaten delicious and reasonably priced food at Havelská Koruna cafeteria and polished it off with novelty desserts, too! And I've visited all 4,500 cathedrals this predominantly secular city holds dear! I've seen every puppet show, ballet, and contact improv extravaganza in town!

I repeat, what DO I do in Prague?

And I answer, get your nose out of that exquisitely carved depiction of Famine Eviscerating a Village or something and consider Alphonse Mucha!

Alphonse Mucha is no unknown, he's widely regarded as the key figure of the Art Nouveau movement. Samplings of his artistic output can be found throughout all of Prague in building facades, lettering, and design motifs. His images are familiar to many, so a recommendation to visit the Mucha Museum may not come as a surprise. Hopefully, an idle consideration of passing by the gallery will now become a definitive plan.

The key to gaining a deeper understanding of an artist's work is, obviously, to see it in person. The Museum boasts not only the original lithographic gigantic prints of the images that made Mucha famous but a great deal of lesser-known work and preliminary drawings as well. Mucha established an enormous vocabulary of design motifs, clearly visible throughout his work. Every figure is flanked by ornate and symbolic patterns, some of which are so compositionally pleasing that they seem sublime. A particular sketch of a stylized orchid comes to mind, wherein the petals are elongated and curled to perfect proportion. Seeing the artist work out design problems is endlessly fascinating and deepens the appreciation of the artistic process. Sketches of jewelry, furniture, stamps, interior design, and more are all on display. Digital reproductions don't do his color palette justice, nor can you fully appreciate the grandeur of his images in a coffee table book. (Though I still want one, don't get me wrong)

Mucha's early work is what made him famous, and while his depictions of Sarah Bernhardt are beautiful, it seems that his compositions ripened over time, his figures became bolder, his compositions stronger, and his use of symbolism became more pointed. Mucha's life's work culminated in the creation of The Slav Epic, which, while the half-kilometer painting isn't viewable in Prague, the Museum does an excellent job of showcasing his artistic life that led up to it.