Max Švabinský and Alfons Mucha

I used to collect stamps when I was a kid. I never had much rhyme or reason for my collecting. I liked getting a stamp and then find the corresponding image in the album. Eventually I stopped buying anything but blank pages and just stuck the stamp near their place of origin. Some of my favorites are from Ceskoslovensko. Beautiful clean line drawings.

Now, with the net, I can actually do some research about the people who created the stamps.

First up a stamp from Ceskoslovensko by artist Max Švabinský honoring artist Alfons Muncha.

I believe the name on the right is the engraver, Jindra Schmidt. To see more of his work click here.

Now, as to the designer of this stamp:
Max Švabinský (1873–1962) was a Czech painter, draughtsman, graphic artist, and professor in Academy of Graphic Arts in Prague. Švabinský is considered to be one of the more notable artists in the history of Czech painting and produced significant work during the first half of the 20th century. He was relatively unusual among modernist artists in that his work was accepted by the communist regime; this was due at least in part to his having formed his artistic personality prior to 1900, prior to the advent of cubism.

Max Švabinský was born on September 17, 1873 in Kroměříž. Together with Jan Preisler, Antonín Slavíček, and Miloš Jiránek, he was one of the founders of Czech modern art. Early on, Švabinský exhibited period tendencies towards Plenérian Realism, Symbolism, and Art Nouveau. Some of his most important early works were portraits or family-oriented paintings. Švabinský and his wife Ela often stayed with the Vejrych family in Kozlov near Česká Třebová. There he was inspired by the picturesque landscape. This is the period in which he painted some of his most famous works.

In Kozlov, at the beginning of the century, he took up graphics systematically, especially etching and Mezzotint. On account of the high quality of his graphic work, he was appointed a professor of the Prague Academy in 1910, and in the same years completed murals for the Municipal House in Prague. In the pages of Paradisiacal Sonata in 1917, he extended his range with wood engraving, at which time his graphic work began to overtake his painting. During the thirties, he had the chance to work in monumental forms. After the mosaics for the National Monument on Žižkov Hill, he painted boards for three stained glass windows of the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. At the same time, and with the same graphic skill, he was able to design in miniature for a postage stamp. At the first session of the government in 1945, he was awarded the title of “National Artist”.

Max Švabinský died on February 10, 1962. The cottage in Kozlov (near Česká Třebová, East Bohemia, Czech Republic) where Max Švabinský stayed has recently been renovated and now it is open for visitors. The interior looks just the same as 100 years ago and many of Švabinský's pictures are shown there. The tour can be performed both in Czech and English. Painted "Kamelie", Camellia in 1903. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
To see other work by Švabinský:
another stamp drawn by him and engraved by Jindra Schmidt
As to Alfons Mucha, the subject of this stamp, if you've studied art or design you'll know Mucha.
Alfons Maria Mucha (Czech pronunciation: [ˈalfons ˈmuxa]; 24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939), known in English as Alphonse Mucha, was a Czech Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist, known best for his distinct style. He produced many paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs.

Early years
Alphonse Maria Mucha was born in the town of Ivančice, Moravia (the present Czech Republic). Although his singing abilities allowed him to continue his education through high school in the Moravian capital of Brno, drawing had been his main hobby since childhood. He worked at decorative painting jobs in Moravia, mostly painting theatrical scenery. In 1879, he relocated to Vienna to work for a major Viennese theatrical design company, while informally augmenting his artistic education. When a fire destroyed his employer's business during 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 that he agreed to sponsor Mucha's formal training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.

F. Champenois Imprimeur-Éditeur, lithograph, 1897.

Mucha 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. About Christmas 1894, Mucha happened to go into a print shop where there was a sudden and unexpected need for a new advertising poster for a play featuring 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 was posted in the city, where it attracted much attention. Bernhardt was so satisfied with the success of this first poster that she began a six-year contract with Mucha.

Mucha produced a flurry of paintings, posters, advertisements, and book illustrations, as well as designs for jewelry, carpets, wallpaper, and theatre sets in what was termed initially the Mucha Style but became known as Art Nouveau (French for 'new art'). Mucha's works frequently featured beautiful young women in flowing, vaguely Neoclassical-looking robes, often surrounded by lush flowers which sometimes formed halos behind their heads. In contrast with contemporary poster makers he used pale pastel colors. The 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris spread the "Mucha style" internationally, of which Mucha said "I think [the Exposition Universelle] made some contribution toward bringing aesthetic values into arts and crafts." He decorated the Bosnia and Herzegovina Pavilion and collaborated with decorating the Austrian Pavilion. His Art Nouveau style was often imitated. The Art Nouveau style however, was one that Mucha attempted to disassociate himself from throughout his life; he always insisted that rather than maintaining any fashionable stylistic form, his paintings were entirely a product of himself and Czech art. He declared that art existed only to communicate a spiritual message, and nothing more; hence his frustration at the fame he gained by his commercial art, when he most wanted to concentrate on more artistic projects.

Mucha married Maruška (Marie/Maria) Chytilová on 10 June 1906, in Prague. The couple visited the U.S. from 1906 to 1910, during which time their daughter, Jaroslava, was born in New York City. They also had a son, Jiří, (born 12 March 1915 in Prague; died 5 April 1991 in Prague) who later became a well known journalist, writer, screenwriter, author of autobiographical novels and studies of the works of his father. In the U.S., Alphonse expected to earn money to fund his nationalistic projects to demonstrate to Czechs that he had not "sold out". He was assisted by millionaire Charles R. Crane, who used his fortune to help promote revolutions and, after meeting Thomas Masaryk, Slavic nationalism. Alphonse and his family returned to the Czech lands and settled in Prague, where he decorated the Theater of Fine Arts, contributed his time and talent to create the murals in the Mayor's Office at the Municipal House, and other landmarks around the city. When Czechoslovakia won its independence after World War I, Mucha designed the new postage stamps, banknotes, and other government documents for the new state.

The rising tide of fascism during the late 1930s resulted in Mucha's works, as well as his Slavic nationalism, being denounced in the press as 'reactionary'. When German troops moved into Czechoslovakia during the spring of 1939, Mucha was among the first persons to be arrested by the Gestapo. During his interrogation, the aging artist became ill with pneumonia. Though released eventually, he may have been weakened by this event. He died in Prague on 14 July 1939, of a lung infection, and was interred there in the Vyšehrad cemetery.

At the time of his death, Mucha's style was considered outdated. His son, author Jiří Mucha, devoted much of his life to writing about him and bringing attention to his art. In his own country, the new authorities were not interested in Mucha. His Slav Epic was rolled and stored for twenty-five years before being shown in Moravsky Krumlov and only recently has a Mucha museum opened in Prague, managed by his grandson, John Mucha.

Mucha's work has continued to experience periodic revivals of interest for illustrators and artists. Interest in Mucha's distinctive style experienced a strong revival during the 1960s (with a general interest in Art Nouveau) and is particularly evident in the psychedelic posters of Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, the collective name for British artists Michael English and Nigel Waymouth, and Bob Masse. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
Click here to go to the Mucha museum.

So, I learned something new today. Though I knew of Mucha I did not know of Švabinský. Little piece of old paper provided the impetus to broaden my mind.


  1. I read the post and then went looking for some information about Charles R. Crane. I thought that he was the Lifesaver Crane, but no he wasn't. Clarence Crane invented Lifesavers, but I thought that the Holy Grail of Cinderella stamps was Alphonse Mucha - but no, I was wrong about that, too. Maxfield Parrish designed ad art for Clarence Crane. Now, see what I found after becoming hooked on your story about stamps?

  2. Like I've said before, you just never know where I tiny old piece of tattered paper will lead you. Each piece with throw away has a story attached.