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Christmas in America

Czech artist Alphonse Maria Mucha (1860–1939) was famous for his luxurious poster and product designs, which helped define the Art Nouveau style. Born in the town of Ivančice, Moravia (now a region of the Czech Republic), Mucha trained as a painter in Vienna, Munich, and Paris, where his poster Gismonda (1894) for the superstar actress Sarah Bernhardt launched him to international renown and heralded the birth of his distinctive style.

Mucha visited America regularly from 1904 to 1920 to seek funds for various artistic projects. During his seventh and final visit in late 1919, he made this portrait, one of many Christmas images he created for posters and magazines throughout his career.

In this painting, a female figure, wearing a crown of evergreen branches, looks out at the viewer. In her hand, she holds a candle, fruit, and nuts, sustenance against the cold and the makings of a feast and celebration.

Why might this painting be titled Christmas in America? Why do you think the artist chose to portray a young woman rather than, say, a more explicitly religious subject or an image of a child? What idea or mood does this painting convey? How does it relate to your own idea of what Christmas is all about?

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