In April 2016, I reported about the plans of Century Guild on reprinting Mucha’s Le Pater. Well, that plan was backed on kickstarter by more than eighthundred(!) supporters and in June that same year, the first copies of a small soft cover reprint were already in the mail.
Thomas Negovan, the man behind the project, rightfully wrote at the time “The images from Le Pater are mentioned in numerous Mucha books as his masterpieces and are universally acknowledged alongside his massive Slav Epic paintings as his finest work. But as a result of Mucha’s forced limitation of the publication of this masterwork, the rarity of the lithographs means that most books are limited to mentioning the images in the text and leaving the reader to wonder what these ‘lost masterpieces’ might look like.”
Alphonse Mucha, a Spiritual Man
While illustrator Alphonse Mucha was well-known for his graphic output, most of his work was commercial in nature. He made a considerable income from his theatrical and advertising work. But he wished even more to be recognized as a serious artist and philosopher. Next to being a devoted Catholic, he was also interested in mysticism. And in January 1898 Mucha joined the Paris masonic lodge of the Grand Orient de France.
Shortly before the 1900 Exposition, he wrote in his memoirs, “I had not found any real satisfaction in my old kind of work. I saw that my way was to be found elsewhere, little bit higher. I sought a way to spread the light which reached further into even the darkest corners. I didn’t have to look for very long. The Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer): why not give the words a pictorial expression?”. He approached his publisher, Henri Piazza, and proposed the book, in these words: “First a cover page with symbolist ornament; then the same ornament developed in a kind a variation on each line of the prayer; a page explaining each line in a calligraphic form; and a page rendering the idea of each line in the form of an image.”
Le Pater, the Project Mucha put his Soul into
Le Pater was published on 20 December 1899. The original watercolour paintings of the pages were displayed in the Austrian pavilion at the 1900 World Exposition. Mucha printed only a limited number of 510 copies of his most personal work-on-paper which he later described to a New York reporter as “the thing I have put my soul into.” (The Sun newspaper, 5 January, 1900) He demanded the plates be destroyed, ensuring his spiritual work would never be mass-produced for commercial purposes.
A love letter to the close of the 19th century and a message of hope to the future.
And now, Thomas Negovan has decided to put his soul into the work. By creating an academic reproduction of the masterpiece and making it available for everyone to study and enjoy. Negovan worked from an original 1899 folio of the artwork so the image captures and printing are of the highest possible quality. This time his project was backed by more than one thousand backers during the Kickstarter campaign! And on the 1st of July 2019, the shipping of the first hard covers began…
The book begins with a remarkably readable scholarly chapter on the evolution of spirituality and the advent of modern symbolism. The following chapters are about Mucha’s life in Paris, the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, and the New Art (Art Nouveau) for this new age. All the pages of the original Le Pater are printed real size, including preliminary drawings. The last chapter of the book explains what happened to Mucha and his Le Pater after it was published. And the book ends with Mucha’s quote…
The progress of mankind proceeds by a winding, rising and falling path – like a temperature chart. It rises and then falls again – very far. But in the long run, it does, after all, rise…
Thomas Negovan has done a marvelous job explaining the symbolism in Le Pater, and putting it in the right historical context. From the books about Art Nouveau that are currently being published all over the world, this new book about Le Pater is an exception. It includes new and un-published material, high resolution photographs and so, só much new information about Mucha and Le Pater. Highly recommended for any library or as a magnificent coffee table piece. A MUST READ for Art Nouveau lovers!
Le Pater: Alphonse Mucha’s Symbolist Masterpiece and the Lineage of Mysticism [Hardcover]
2 available options are a Standard Edition Hardcover ór a Limited Edition Clamshell Box, both comprising
– 224 pages
– 31 cm x 42 cm (12″ x 16″)
– Printed to scale with original work
– Ultra-high resolution
– On fine cotton paper
– Gilt highlighting
– Rare historical photos
TO ORDER THE BOOK: CLICK HERE
I have wondered how I could show you the magnitude of this book. But there is no photo that can do this work justice. The best way to show you, is by sharing the videos I found online. Like the ‘unboxing’ video below.
This is what you get when you order this beautiful gold-edged book:
2021 UPDATE: An expanded paperback edition of Le Pater is now offered at Kickstarter for $ 44,- plus shipping. For more details, click here.