Friday, 18 April 2014

Prague museum acquires Mucha's unique Le Pater illustrations

23 November 2012

Prague, Nov 22 (CTK) - Prague's Museum of Decorative Arts (UMPRUM) has acquired a unique collection of drawings and prints linked to Czech art nouveau painter Alfons Mucha's famous Le Pater book illustrations reflecting the Christian prayer, which it presented to the media Thursday.

The collection has been donated to UMPRUM by Vera Neumann, a Czech-born collector and art sponsor living in Switzerland.

Le Pater, a masterpiece of book culture, for the first time appeared in 1899 in Paris where Mucha (1860-1939) spent many years of his life.

The newly acquired collection is priceless, with value reaching many dozens of millions of crowns, said UMPRUM director Helena Koenigsmarkova.

UMPRUM's expert Radim Vondracek said the acquisition's artistic value is comparable to that of the Slav Epic, Mucha's famous cycle of 20 large-scale paintings depicting scenes from the mythology and history of Slavs.

"Mucha's illustrations of Le Pater are no common illustrations, they are a work of his heart, his innermost sense of these issues. By this work he wanted to divert from his purely commercial production of the latter half of the 1890s," Vondracek said.

He said the collection offers a unique opportunity to see all phases of Mucha's creative process, from initial sketches to the definitive drawings that were reproduced in the book.

The collection comprises about 70 drawings and sketches and 120 impressions. They feature figural motifs complemented with surreal and occult ones.

Mucha also designed the book's letters and graphic arrangement. His illustrations reflect both his Catholic upbringing and the contemporary intellectual streams.

Mucha presented the first Le Pater issue to Charles Freund-Deschamps whose daughter he was to marry. Afterwards the work entered the French president Raymond Poincare's collection. It appeared in the public only in 1972 when it was put on auction in Paris. Vera Neumann and her husband Lotar, also a Czech, learned about the auction ex post, but they managed to address all buyers, buy all drawings from them and reunite them in a single collection that has been presented in several world galleries since.

The story of the Neumann couple is interesting as well. Lotar, of Jewish origin, luckily survived the war under a foreign identity. In 1948 he and his wife fled the communist Czechoslovakia to Venezuela. They returned to Europe in the early 1960s and bought a chateau in Switzerland, near the Lake Geneva, where they gradually collected a unique collection of mainly art nouveau and symbolist art.

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