Beardsley was the greatest black and white artist since Daumier, better in some ways because purer in line. No one came close to him in the Art Nouveau age, without using colour. The best of them was the Czech Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), another graduate of the Academie Julian, whose first work was in the theatre and who never strayed far from it.
One warms to Mucha because he tried so hard to bring art into the lives of the people - his greatest passion - by designing first class posters, advertisements, labels for soap, toothpaste and butter, mosaic panels for municipal swimming pools, crockery, textiles, jewellery (the snake bracelet and ring he designed for Sarah Bernhardt, executed by Fouquet, is perhaps the finest piece of costume jewellery ever created), postage stamps, calendars, letterheads and every conceivable kind of illustrative work. He loved Byzantine icons, collected them and copied them. He despised Art Nouveau, or said he did; not unfairly because his was really a style of its own. Anyone interested in design should study how ingeniously Mucha weaves into a single pattern frame and content, figures and decoration, lettering and picture.
He formed a commercial love alliance with Sarah Bernhardt, when he designed the poster for the play Gismonda, perhaps the greatest theatre poster ever created - along with Lautrec's Aristide Bruant dans son Cabaret - and thereafter designed all her posters, together with costumes, sets and personal knick knacks. But Mucha needed the heady airs of Parisian cosmopolitanism: once he retreated to Bohemia in 1910 and became a Czech nationalist he fizzled out wastefully, rather like Sargent when he took up municipal wall decoration in Boston.
- From "Art: A New History", by Paul Johnson.