The festive opening of the exhibition THE ART NOUVEAU WOMAN: FROM MUSE TO FEMME FATALE


The festive opening of the exhibition THE ART NOUVEAU WOMAN: FROM MUSE TO FEMME FATALE organised by the Prague House in Brussels and the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague took place on Wednesday 24 May 2023. The exhibition which is part of the rich program of "CAPITAL OF ART NOUVEAU BRUSSELS 2023" features works by Mucha alongside many other items – posters, furniture and furnishings – that highlight the essence of Art Nouveau: its celebration of the vitality represented by nature and femininity.

During the opening speech the curator Lucie Vlčková presented the exhibition to the guests :

„Art nouveau is represented in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague by unique works of art and craftsmanship not only of Bohemian but also of European production, including important pieces that were presented at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, which greatly popularised and massively expanded the decorative style of Art Nouveau.

( . . . ) Even though the most interesting works of our museum collection require large gallery spaces, the limiting spatial factors of the very charming and cosy Prague house became an advantage. When thinking about the concept of the exhibition, I had to base it on the conditions and therefore had to abandon the idea of exhibiting all the art nouveau treasures of our museum - after all, Brussels itself is full of art nouveau treasures. I therefore focused on one of the strong themes of the turn of the 19th and 20th century - the depiction of women.

Traditionally, woman and the female body has been a strong and appealing subject for art, through which she passes as a goddess, a muse, or acts as a personification of states, virtues and vices. Aspects of physicality and erotic references to the female body were celebrated in the Rococo period, but it was not until the art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that women in all their forms, social roles and mental and physical qualities were fully appreciated. The international decorative style of the Art Nouveau period, characterised by a turn to nature and its forms, made extensive use of the female figure in its ornamental and decorative repertoire and dramatically updated its traditional forms. Alongside attractive vegetal elements that dynamise surfaces and form the organic shapes of architecture, craft artefacts and everyday industrial products, a woman appears, her softly modelled body, or at least her face with stylised strands of hair.

The woman as an inspiration, an attractive and sensual object and also a key element of composition and a source of decorative function is shown in a series of photographs by Alfons Mucha, which provide information about his way of working with models in the studio and are themselves a work of art. Mucha then used the motifs of the female body in an album of decorative patterns - examples of which are also on display. These attractive motifs inspired many other designers, but Mucha was not the only model; Czech artists drew on many other sources to create their own forms of the Art Nouveau style. The frequent theme of women is related to the emancipation processes, social changes that meant the expansion of women's roles - these changes are illustrated by art posters, which are, among other things, a historical source of the lifestyle of the time - the women depicted in them are no longer just accessories, but those who enjoy all the conveniences of modern life. The massive boom in the depiction of women in advertising, which occurred during the Art Nouveau period, can be perceived as an abuse of women in the context of today's reflections on the issue of gender equality. It would be a shame if these contemporary discussions overshadowed the extraordinary aesthetic and artistic experience that works drawing on the natural beauty of the female body provide. I hope you enjoy the charms of the women the works on display show and that they delight your eyes.“

The event was accompanied by DJ Chris the Dancer.

Visits are possible by appointment: 25. 5. - 26. 6. 2023 MON-FRI (10:00 - 16:00) and during the weekend of 10. - 11. 6. (10:00 - 17:00). The gallery will be closed on 13.6. and 20.6. Please book your visit at: