Capturing Spring: Mucha's Seasons from 1896 and 1900

"Divine nature speaks to our soul… she awakens in our hearts joy and happiness by the simple lines, proportions and colours of a small flower."

Alphonse Mucha

Closely associated with the awakening of nature, blossoming flowers and sprouting seeds, springtime has been a popular subject in art, depicted by Old Masters such as Botticelli as well as Mucha's contemporaries including Monet, Van Gogh and Grasset. Not surprisingly, Mucha also portrayed this joyous season of the year in his posters and paintings. Probably the best-known among them are his depictions of Spring, featuring in two of his most successful series of decorative panels, both called The Seasons, produced in 1896 and 1900. In each series, the seasons are personified as different types of women, set against landscapes capturing the moods of the four seasons.

In the 1896 series, Spring is portrayed as a fair-haired nymph-like figure, which evokes the image of a Grace from Botticelli's Primavera (c.1480). Standing under a blossoming tree, she plays a lyre fashioned from a curved twig combined with strings made of her own hair. A group of small birds sits on a nearby branch, accompanying her music with birdsong. Her hair, rolling in waves, partially integrated in the strings and curvilinear forms of the tree branches, create a rich decorative effect.

In the design created for Spring four years later, decorative elements are further emphasised, with a simplified composition in a slightly narrower format, highlighted by a thick ornamental border and stylised female forms and plant motifs, probably inspired by Japanese hanging-scroll paintings (kakemono). Like many of his contemporaries in Paris, Mucha collected Japanese art objects, and his rendering of folds of drapery and snow-capped plants show their influence. Each season of the originally issued set was accompanied by a short descriptive poem, imprinted in the image area. In this, Spring is described as "emerging from the mists of winter, brings the joy of the new year with its sunshine and flowers."

Being among the most popular of Mucha's decorative panel series, many variants of The Seasons were made to adorn the households of everyday people. Referring to this enterprise, Mucha later wrote: "I was happy to be involved in art for the people and not for private drawing rooms. It was inexpensive, accessible to the general public, and it found a home in poor families as well as in more affluent circles."


Tomoko Sato, Curator of the Mucha Foundation.