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Stephen Smith explores the innovative work of Alphonse Mucha and the birth of the nouvelle woman in fin de siècle Paris. In 1895, Mucha's sensual posters of actress Sarah Bernhardt caused a sensation - it captured the moment ‘Art Nouveau’ arrived on the streets of the French capital. Mucha became an overnight success and moved to a new studio to experiment with the emerging art of photography. He produced a book called ‘Documents Decoratifs’, a bible for Art Nouveau, which spread his style across France and Europe.

Revealing the story behind Alphonse Mucha's sensual posters of actress Sarah Bernhardt, looking at the exquisite jewellery designer Renee Lalique and visiting iconic art nouveau locations such the famous Maxim's restaurant, we gain a picture of fin-de-siecle Paris. But Smith also reveals that the style is more than just veneer deep. Looking further into the work of glass maker Emile Galle and architect Hector Guimard, he sees how some of art nouveau's stars risked their reputation to give meaning and purpose to work they thought could affect social change.
This clip is from:
First broadcast:
22 March 2012

Classroom Ideas

Could be used to support a History of Art lesson on Art Nouveau and the work of Alphonse Mucha. Could be used to develop a critical and analytical understanding of artists and their approaches or as a starting point to a photography or painting project.

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