The biggest artistic inspiration that I have witnessed since coming to Prague is definitely the work by Alphonse Mucha. Mucha was a Czech Art Nouveau painter whose works were greatly influenced by his home country and the passion that he felt for Czechoslovakia at the time. In fact, Mucha considered his life’s masterpiece to be The Slav Epic, which is a series of twenty gigantic paintings all depicting the history of the Czech and Slovak people, something Mucha had wanted to accomplish since he was a boy. Mucha’s painting style itself was very distinctive and the “Mucha style” actually came to define what Art Nouveau was in Czechoslovakia at the time. But, unfortunately for Mucha, this meant a lot more attention on his commercial works, as opposed to his creations which he believed stemmed only from within himself and the influence of Czech art around him—not a desire to conform to a certain artistic style as some of his viewers thought.
The specific piece of art designed by Alphonse Mucha that I was able to admire in person was his stained glass window in St. Vitus Cathedral within Prague Castle. This beautiful, towering stained glass masterpiece depicts St. Wenceslas as a child with his grandmother and surrounded by depictions of various religious episodes in the history of Christianity’s spread to the Slavic people. This stained glass window is not only extremely vibrant in color and detail, but also just goes to show the amount of passion and patriotism that the Czech and Slovacs have for their own history. The country itself is very aware and proud of their personal struggles to throw off the yoke of communism. And since the Velvet Revolution and the cultural liberation happened mere decades ago, the bitter memories and joyful relief is still strong in many of the Czech peoples’ minds.
That said, when I stepped into St. Vitus Cathedral within the Prague Castle complex, I was forced to stop in a moment of awe as I gazed up at its vaulted ceilings and heard the whispered murmurs of my fellow visitors echoing around me. Mucha’s stained glass window was the first thing to catch my eye, and that only heightened my awareness and scrutiny of all the other Czech artistic wonders within the cathedral and Prague itself that I had yet to see. Thus, I think going to that cathedral so early into my study abroad journey really opened my eyes to the beauty and history to be found within Prague. And my travels during the semester have only continued to raise my appreciation for Prague’s architectural beauty and the peace to be found within the city and her people themselves. It can be hard to feel at home in a totally new place where everything including the language is foreign. But the past two months have done a really good job of moving me to see Prague as a second home that I look forward to returning to. Though I’ll admit, the extremely cheap prices provide a nice incentive to come back as well!