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Sarah Bernhardt

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Alphonse Maria Mucha (1860 - 1939) was a Czech Art Nouveau painter. However, he did a great many posters and prints. The period of his work has become known as the Belle Epoque. At the end of 1896 a huge banquet was thrown at the Grand Hotel to celebrate Sarah Bernhardt's 52nd birthday. Coinciding with this event, La Plume decided to publish an article on the actress (which came out in the very first issue of 1897). To promote the article, they asked her to pick her favorite artist to design a poster. The result is a superb, textbook Art Nouveau image by Mucha. All of his signature design motifs are combined in this image: a halo, stars, byzantine motifs, overgrown stylized hair and flowers (in this case a tiara of lilies Bernhardt wore in one of her most successful plays, Princess Lointaine). The combined attention from the banquet and the article served Champenois well, as the printer was able to mass market this image in many different variations.