Slav Epic, Alphonse Mucha’s masterpiece, has finally found a permanent home in Prague
According to an agreement announced on 11 January, the Slav Epic (1910-28) will be displayed in the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Savarin development, a new regeneration project in the historic centre of Prague, which is due to open in 2026. The move follows a lengthy battle between the Czech artist’s grandson John Mucha and the city council over the fragile work’s future.
“Slav Epic” by Alphonse Mucha, is a series of 20 monumental paintings representing key events in Slavic history, and which have been searching for a permanent exhibition space for almost a century. The last time they were exhibited was in 2012. Alphonse Mucha’s wish to find a permanent home for his Slav Epic in the Czech Republic may finally come true after the monumental cycle of 20 paintings was left in limbo for almost a century.
The 15,000 sq. m complex will be a mix of retail and office spaces set in the neighbourhood of Wenceslas Square, one of Prague’s main attractions. Heatherwick Studio’s design involves restoring a number of historic buildings and integrating them with new structures and underground passages.
The Slav Epic (Slovanská epopej) is a series of twenty monumental canvases (the largest measuring over 6 by 8 metres) depicting the history of the Slav people and civilisation. Mucha conceived it as a monument for all the Slavonic peoples and he devoted the latter half of his artistic career to the realisation of this work.
The idea of the work was formed in 1899, while Mucha was working on the design for the interior of the Pavilion of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which had been commissioned by the Austro-Hungarian government for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. In preparation for the assignment he travelled widely through the Balkans, researching their history and customs as well as observing the lives of the Southern Slavs in the regions that had been annexed by Austria-Hungary two decades earlier. From this experience sprang the inspiration for a new project – the creation of ‘an epic for all the Slavonic peoples’ that would portray the ‘joys and sorrows’ of his own nation and those of all the other Slavs.
Between 1904 and 1909, Mucha visited the United States five times in hopes of finding a benefactor who would support his ambitious project and eventually, on Christmas Day 1909, he secured sponsorship from Charles Richard Crane (1858-1939), a wealthy Chicago-based businessman and philanthropist. Crane was intensely interested in the development of political affairs in Eastern Europe and Slavonic culture and he was to provide financial and emotional sustenance to Mucha for almost twenty years. Mucha returned to his homeland in 1910 to take up his mission.
With the Slav Epic Mucha wished to unite all the Slavs through their common history and their mutual reverence for peace and learning and eventually to inspire them to work for humanity using their experience and virtue. In 1928, Mucha and Crane officially presented the complete series of the Slav Epic to the City of Prague as a gift to the nation, coinciding with the 10th Anniversary of its independence.
You can see the 20 paintings and the explanation to each of them in the following link: http://www.muchafoundation.org/en/gallery/themes/theme/slav-epic