Alphonse Mucha, master of Art Nouveau

Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) was one of the most relevant Art Nouveau artists. He created the “Mucha style” that had a great influence in decorative arts and advertising illustration. Several exhibitions on this artist have taken place recently, both in the UK and other European countries; all have been promoted by the Mucha Foundation. There is also a permanent collection at the Mucha Museum in Prague, opened by the foundation in 1998.


Self-portrait with Gismonda‘s poster in the background. Ca. 1896. S950.a.201.2411

Mucha was born in Ivančice (near Brno) in 1860, when it was part of the Austrian Empire (now Czech Republic). He lived his youth in Brno in a growing atmosphere of Czech nationalism. Despite having artistic talents from a very young age, he was not able to gain a place at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. Mucha worked for a major theatrical company in Vienna, but the theatre burnt down. Then he ran out of money, but he was lucky enough that his portraits were appreciated by the Count Khuen Belasi in Moravia. Thus, the Count Khuen and his brother, Count Egon, decided to commission him to paint some murals. The latter was so fascinated by his works that decided to become his patron. Thanks to his benefactor Mucha received two years of training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts before moving to Paris in 1887. There he continued his formal art training and worked for a magazine creating advertising illustrations. He met Paul Gauguin in 1891; they become friends and Mucha offered Gauguin his studio, which they shared for some time. Continue reading

Penck: beautiful and poignant

The University Library has recently acquired the catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition A.R. Penck, Rites de passage (S950.a.201.5701) which was held at the Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence near Nice from March 18 to June 18, 2017. Penck was one of the greatest German artists of the late 20th century along with Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, Sigmar Polke and Jörg Immendorff. The focus of the exhibition was on the challenges of his painting and sculpture through different periods, each chosen to give a better understanding of the richness of his aesthetic, existential, philosophical and literary worlds. The exhibition presented around one hundred paintings, sculptures, large sets of drawings, prints and artists’ books. Continue reading

Richard Boyle’s Spanish Colonial Art book donation


Donation label designed by the Faculty of Art & Architecture Library, Cambridge (based on original from Richard Boyle)

Richard Boyle, an enthusiast of Spanish Colonial art history, recently donated 88 Spanish colonial art books to the University Library in honor of his wife Marlene de Block. This is a significant donation, as there were very few volumes on colonial Latin American art and are mostly North American publications. Until now, the University Library and the Centre of Latin American studies collections mainly focused on nineteenth and twentieth-century Latin America.

This exceptional donation includes Spanish publications from Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, Brazil and other Latin American countries, unavailable in most European national libraries. This is a unique opportunity for the development of colonial Latin American art studies in the United Kingdom. Continue reading

“Per Dora Maar tan rebufona”


Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (from Wikipedia)

In 1936 the notable art dealer, collector and publisher Ambroise Vollard commissioned engravings from Picasso to accompany his intended publication of an anthology of extracts from the Histoire naturelle of the 18th century naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon.  However, with the exception of a sequence of 11 etchings with a print run of 47 copies, nothing was published before Vollard’s accidental death in a motor car accident in July 1939.  It was left to Vollard’s fellow art dealer Martin Fabiani to publish in 1942 Picasso’s complete set of 31 etched plates with sugar aquatint and drypoint, which he did in a limited edition of 226 copies, entitled Picasso : eaux-fortes originales pour des textes de Buffon. 

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Goya’s legacy as seen through Glendinning’s eyes


Tesoros del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Pintura: 1400-1939 (CCA.65.118)

Over 400 new titles from the library of Professor Nigel Glendinning have been added to Cambridge University Library’s collections since they were donated in 2013.

Works on the Spanish Old Master Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) and, to a lesser extent, his predecessor Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) feature prominently in this collection.  Exhibition catalogues on European art and monographic works on 20th century art and architecture in Britain are also present. Some examples include: Ten years of British architecture, ’45-’55: an Arts Council exhibition (CCC.65.156); Modern British prints: 1914-1960 (CCC.65.105); The captured imagination: drawings by Joan Miró from the Fundació Joan Miró (CCA.65.23).

A significant number of books discuss art in the Zaragoza province (Aragón, Spain) where Francisco de Goya was born —Academicismo y enseñanza de las Bellas Artes en Zaragoza durante el siglo XVIII  (CCC.65.78); Colecciones y coleccionistas aragoneses en los siglos XVII, XVIII y XIX (CCC.65.100).

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