Prague is a city with a long history of art and culture; you can tell just by the sheer amount of museums, concert halls and street art you see. Catching the Don Giovanni opera, any opera actually, was something I’d always wanted to try out and it turned out to be a pretty interesting experience. But I also encountered two other artists, one quite by accident while checking out the first.
Franz Kafka is one of more prominent names that comes up when it comes to famous writers from Prague. I’ve heard of him, and Haruki Murakami’s book Kafka on the Shore sits on my shelf but I’d never actually read any of his works. I first encountered him on my walking tour of the city, near the Jewish quarter of the city where a memorial to him was built, based on one of his short stories.
I haven’t really been moved to check out any of his works, but I will have to credit Kafka with helping me discover another Czech artist quite unexpectedly: Alphonse Mucha.
I hadn’t even known who Mucha was – I was wondering around on the Mala Strana (lesser town, the castle side of the river Vltava) side on my last full day in Prague, mooching around and wondering what to do on a rainy afternoon where it was pouring down and I was getting a bit tired of being all damp and having my umbrella blown inside out. I found myself outside the Franz Kafka museum and decided to pop in to check it out while waiting out the rain.
This is the courtyard of the Kafka museum – I honestly was a bit bewildered by this weird peeing statue. It’s created by an artist called David Cerny and has two dudes peeing over a pond shaped like Prague. Nope, no idea what that’s supposed to mean.
I took a quick walk around the gift shop, deciding if I wanted to pop into the museum. It was then I first set my eyes on these beautiful, rather old-school illustrations by Mucha. Enquiring at the information counter, I was told that the people who ran the private Kafka museum also operated the Mucha museum down near Wencelas Square. Even better, tickets for the Mucha museum were going at half price (90CZK / S$6) to encourage visitors to go to both museums, wow!
It was close to 5pm in the afternoon already, so I didn’t have a lot of time. I quickly bought my tickets and hared it out of there, rain and all. I managed to find the museum at around 515pm – it’s not a very big place, 2-3 halls of Mucha’s work displayed on the walls, and a 30-min video documentary about his life which I didn’t stay to watch due to my limited time.
No photography was allowed, so no photos unfortunately. I did manage to sneak these pix from outside the museum though:
And though I only spent 45 minutes there, I really did enjoy checking out his works. For the uninitiated, Mucha’s illustration style is known as art nouveau, and he was one of the forerunners and major influencers in this style catching on back in the day. I’ve never really had a favourite genre of art, but apparently I do like art nouveau, which is also quite closely related to Antoni Gaudi’s works in Barcelona, another artist I’m quite enamoured with.
What I love is that a lot of Mucha’s work wasn’t just purely for art’s sake, but actually works for advertisements selling things from biscuits to plays. The intricate detail of his drawings, I can’t imagine anybody these days putting in that much work for a poster! I love his signature style, the suggestive woman and the nature-inspired frames, it’s just so pretty.
And while walking back to the hostel from the museum, I encountered this unexpected sunset and rainbow:
Hergetova Cihelna, Cihelná 2b, 118 00 Prague 1 (Malá Strana)
Kaunický palác, Panská 7, 110 00 Prague 1
Entry fee is 180 CZK, I recommend you going to get your tickets at half price at the Kafka Museum. Conversely, you can also get half price Kafka museum tickets at the Mucha museum.
- If you have the chance to, head over to the National Gallery in Prague to check out Mucha’s The Slav Epic, a series of 20 paintings which he considered his greatest work. I didn’t have time to check it out, unfortunately!
- Also, look out for his stained glass window when up at St Vitus Cathedral. See which window here.