It was during the time of 1894 that the citizens of Paris saw a poster for a theatre play, which would revolutionize the poster design of that period. The poster was “Gismonda” by Alphonse Mucha, a Czech Art Nouveau painter.
“…at the appearance of Gismonda on the billboards, Paris was bowled over; an odscure illustrator (Mucha) became an overnight celebrity,and posters were suddenly discussed seriously as art form in circles which would have before not even deigned to grant them a passing mention… Mucha's masterly composition, his unereing eye for decorative detail, flawless draftsmanship and an exquisitely delicate sensitivity for muted colours combined with his skill in lithography to produce a masterpiece” (Wine Spectator ,71 cited in yaneff.com)“Gismonda” is a 213,04 x 74,93 cm poster made by Mucha on 1894; the technique used was lithographic print. The main purpose of this piece was to be used as a promotional poster for a play under the same name, where the main actress was Sarah Bernhardt, a famous French actress of that time. It was thanks to this design that Mucha achieved fame, and up to this date “Gismonda” is one of his mostfamous pieces.
Some reasons that make “Gismonda” an important piece of art are that “the long narrow shape, the subtle pastel colours and the stillness of the near life-size figure introduced a role of dignity and sobriety which were quite startling in their novelty” (Mucha Foundation)
The technique used was lithography with five main colours: light red, yellow orange, Prussian blue,turquoise and gold; and due to the size of the poster, it was printed in two sheets (The Amica library, 2001). When we talk about lithography, we are referring to a “printing technique using a planographic process in which prints are pulled on a special press from a flat stone or metal surface that has been chemically sensitized so that ink sticks only to the design areas and is repelled by thenon-image areas” (Art terminology)
When we see the whole composition of “Gismonda”, we immediately notice that the main figure or focal point is the figure of Sarah Bernhardt, which is located in the middle. The poster is also divided in three sections; the first section being located at the upper part, and it is here where the title of the play is displayed. The second section is where the focalpoint of the piece is situated, in this case the model; there is also another section within the second part that shows the name of the main actress of the play, Sarah Bernhardt. This inner section is also bigger than the first section of the poster, which shows the name of the play. And lastly, the third part shows the name of “Theatre De La Renaissance”, which was the name of the theatre where theplay was being shown at the time.
The composition of the design is quite simple, since there aren’t any other elements that would distract the viewer from the focal point of the image. Moreover, we can all also see repetitions of different motifs along the image, in its majority they are floral motifs which are mostly located in the tunic that the model is wearing. Yet we can also seerepetition in the background where the text are located, since the motif used resembles a tile, so when it is repeated it gives the impression of being some type of mosaic.
As it is the case with some pieces of art that might change a bit depending in which viewpoint you are watching them, the contrary doesn’t happen to “Gismonda”, which remains the same or doesn’t gives another interpretation nomatter in which angle you are looking at.
An important aspect of Gismonda, is the colour and the use of it in order to obtain the final result. As it was said before, the technique that Mucha used to produce Gismonda was lithography with only five colours: light red, yellow orange, Prussian blue, turquoise and gold; it was only with these five colours that he managed to create an impression...