Alphonse (Alfons) Mucha (1860 – 1939) was a Czech painter and decorative artist born in 1860 born in the town of Ivančice, Moravia. He is best known for his luxurious poster and product designs, which encapsulate the Art Nouveau style. Contemporary interest in his work was revived in 1980 after an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris.
Mucha attended high school in the Moravian capital of Brünn (Brno), after which he worked at decorative painting jobs in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery. In 1879 he moved to Vienna to work for a leading Viennese theatrical design company, while informally furthering his artistic education. In 1881 he returned to Moravia, to do freelance decorative and portrait painting. Count Karl Khuen of Mikulov hired Mucha to decorate Hrušovany Emmahof Castle with murals, and was impressed enough to agree to sponsor Mucha's formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.
He moved to Paris in 1887 and continued his studies at Académie Julian and Académie Colarossi. In addition to his studies, he worked at producing magazine and advertising illustrations. Around Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to drop into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play starring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Paris, at the Théâtre de la Renaissance on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Mucha volunteered to produce a lithographed poster within two weeks, and on 1 January 1895, the advertisement for the play Gismonda by Victorien Sardou appeared on the streets of the city. It was an overnight sensation and announced the new artistic style and its creator to the citizens of Paris. Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she entered into a 6 year contract with Mucha.