The Slavic Epic – The Story of Slavs in Paintings

Painting by Alfons Mucha

The Slavic Epic was painted by renowned Czech painter Alfons Mucha who wanted to depict the history of Slavs. It is considered his best work. However, such a work was financially expensive. Mucha obtained grants from CH. R. Crane, a philathropist living in America, who admired Slavic culture. Before he started to work on his paintings, Mucha visited many places connected with Slavic history, including Russia or Poland. Then he lent an apartment situated in Castle Zbiroh and begun his work. In 1928, the display of 20 canvases with Slavic themes was organized in Prague. His work impressed both people in Czech lands and in America where the Slavic Epic was exhibited. The Slavic Epic was hidden during the years of Nazi occupation and in 2013 displayed publicly for the first time.

The Symbolism

The Slavic Epic consists of 20 canvases which took 18 years to complete. The canvases are each up to six meters tall and eight metres wide.The cycle begins with Slavs depicted in their original homeland. The rest of the paintings tell stories of Slavic nations. The last painting is named the Apotheosis of the Slavs and it is there where Mucha used most of his symbolism. When you look at the painting you can see that he used different colours as symbolism. Blue represents mythological past, red stands for Hussite wars, people painted dark are the enemies of the Slavs while the figures painted in yellow are the people representing the bright future of Slavic nations and its union.

And who was Alfons Mucha?

Alfons Mucha was a Czech painter who painted in Art Nouveau style. Although he was a good singer he decided to pursue the career of a painter. He is associated with actress Sarah Bernhardt. After producing a poster for the play she was in, she begun a six-year contract with him. This was a starting point for his career. However, he was arrested by Gestapo after the rise of fascism. During this time he suffered pneumonia. Although he was released, he died due to possible effects of his illness in July 1939. He is buried in the Vyšehrad Cemetery.

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