Alphonse Mucha, born in Moravia, came to Paris in 1887. Over the next 8 years, he emerged from obscurity to become the most celebrated graphic designer of the Art Nouveau movement. His intricate designs and gorgeous subjects were so popular that he produced pattern books for fellow designers and students, and his publishers repurposed his advertisements for hundreds of other products. But his style and status all started when he met the legendary Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress of her day. Mucha’s first poster for her not only launched his graphic design career, but elevated her fame, as the public buzz for the image was completely unprecedented.
“I predict you will be famous.”—Sarah Bernhardt
From that moment on, Mucha used alluring, strong women to advertise everything from cookies to bicycles, alcohol to rolling papers. These women were part of a budding 20th-Century world wherein they had newfound independence and social agency. Through them, Mucha changed the world of advertising and brought Art Nouveau to the streets.