100 days painting — design reflection

Admiring famous painting has always been an important part of my life. The story behind painting itself and the painter gives me a lot of thoughts, which later often turn into my design inspiration. So, I decide to do this little project, one painting at a day, about 2 minutes’ reading. By doing this, I hope I can share some basic background knowledge as well as some color/design techniques about the painting with you. I will also tell you my reflection from this painting in the end (if there is any lol), you are very welcome to share your thoughts if you like.


Day 10 — Zodiac

This poster was designed by Alphonse Mucha in 1896. Believe it or not, it was originally designed as a in-house calendar for the contractor that Mucha worked for. The artist elegantly incorporated twelve zodiac signs representing 12 months in the halo-like disk behind the queen-like woman’s head. The majestic beauty of the woman is emphasized by her regal bearing and elaborate jewellery. Surrounding the disk are the winding stalks and leaves of a plant, all of which are totally Mucha’s customary motifs.

The Bohemian looking woman is placed in the center of a pair of concentric circles, each of the ten visible Zodiac signs also gets its own smaller disk, which brings the viewer visual harmony. Besides, unlike the languid fall of Bernhardt’s hair in Gismonda, the woman in this poster wears the famous hairstyle invented by Mucha who initiates the use of double or parallel lines in very fast, whip-smart curves, a characteristic feature of many of the artists and designers who would follow in his wake. The undulating curvilinear tendrils of hair echo the innumerable curves in the plant-like forms as well as the circles containing the sun and the moon to lower left and right of the decorative panel. Note the sunflower behind the symbol of the sun and the circle of poppies behind the moon. These circular patterns are part of Mucha’s standard use of a decorative border resembling a Byzantine mosaic


Design reflection:

The consistency of shape used and pay attention to details to emphasize the identity.

More importantly, I find that, unlike many painters directly work with living models, women in Mucha’s design are not portraits of living, breathing and identifiable persons and there is no way to reckon what is on her mind. They are often symbolic representation of abstract virtues, of the seasons, of beauty and of philosophical concepts like Poetry or Fate. This symbolic style makes Mucha’s poster perfect for advertisement play, because it leaves more space to people’s imagination and own interpretation.

Color Palette: