Saturday, February 8, 2020

Mucha and Catholicism

Madonna of the Lilies by Alphonse Mucha
From The Catholic Herald:
Mucha’s path to prominence was far from straightforward, and he could easily have become a musician. As a child, he was a chorister at St Peter’s Church in Brno, where he first met the composer Leos Janáček, then a choral conductor in the city. The mystical ambience of the church, with its vaulted Baroque architecture, coloured light, incense and plainchant, left a profound impression on young Alphonse. He even recreated this same fusion of music, art, aroma and architecture in his Paris studio, which he arranged like a chapel. There were screens and drapes, the constant smell of incense and even a harmonium. As he painted, he was like a priest engaged in a solemn rite. Years later Mucha would design a vibrantly colourful stained-glass window for St Vitus Cathedral in Prague, blending religious and nationalist themes.

Mucha had moved to Paris in 1887, then a melting pot of innovative thinking about art, spirituality and the destiny of humanity. Many believed mankind was on the verge of a spiritual transformation, and the arts were to play a crucial role. Among Mucha’s close circle were the painter Paul Gauguin, the composer Frederick Delius and the radical Swedish dramatist August Strindberg, all influenced by the Symbolist movement which proclaimed that art should be atmospheric rather than realistic.
Theosophy had also taken root in France through the writings of the medium Madame Blavatsky, encouraging Mucha to experiment with Spiritualism. Then, in 1891, Mucha was initiated as a Freemason, at that time a closed brotherhood characterised by archaic symbols and rituals. From these disparate sources Mucha fashioned a unique spirituality, grafting idiosyncratic beliefs onto his Catholic background. (Read more.)

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