Poster House Opens with Alphonse Mucha Art Nouveau Exhibit

Head to the brand-new Poster House in Chelsea, the only poster museum in the U.S., for its fabulous opening exhibit, Alphonse Mucha: Art Noveau/Nouvelle Femme (New Woman).

Among the must-sees: the iconic poster of actress Sarah Bernhardt with her name spelled out in a halo around her flowing hair. In 1894, the actress wanted a poster to publicize her upcoming play, Gismonda; since her regular publishing company was on vacation, she turned to Mucha (“Moo-ka”), a Czech émigré.

Medee by Alphonse Mucha

Médée, 1898.

The poster was such a success, with Parisians ripping them off walls, that Bernhardt ordered another 4,000 printed. Mucha became famous. The poster craze took over Europe and the U.S in the 1890s.

The poster and many other works by Mucha, including Bernhard costumed as Hamlet with a dead Ophelia in the panel beneath, and posters of women as the seasons and stars, are on view. Mucha designed posters for goods ranging from cookies to bicycles to cigarette rolling papers—and in doing so, he changed the world of advertising. He portrayed the new woman as strong, glorying in her ability to flirt openly, smoke, and generally behave in a modern manner, often adorned with the artist’s signature “macaroni” hair.  

Monaco Monte Carlo Alphonse Mucha

Monaco Monte-Carlo, 1897.

Mucha liked the way posters brought art to everyone, not just to the upper classes; He became so popular that the demand for his work exhausted him. Ultimately he moved to Prague where he turned his attention to history painting, largely of the Slavic peoples.

The stylish, small museum is easy to see in under two hours collections on two floors. The Mucha show includes an easy-to-understand video of the lithography process (the way posters are printed) and a few cases of exquisite Art Noveau jewelry. There is a café, a well-curated gift shop where items change to reflect the exhibitions and a children’s area where kids can color a “poster” and enjoy art-related projects. There are fun features like a giant billboard and a photo booth where visitors can become a poster. Poster House is open daily from 11 am to 6 pm, except Tuesdays, when the museum is closed. Adult admission is $12; kids, seniors, and those with disabilities pay $8. Some wheelchairs are available; audio commentary is on your phone.

The Mucha exhibit runs until October 6 and will be followed by a show of hand-painted movie posters from Ghana, and one of homemade signs from the 2017 Women’s March opening October 18.

alphonse mucha artist

Alphonse Mucha.

In today's world there are posters on public transportation and on the walls of many living spaces. At Poster House you can see how this truly democratic art form began.

The Poster House is located at 119 W. 23rd St. For more information, visit

About the Author

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer whose work has been published in The New York Times, American Profile, Go Nomad,, Stratton Magazine, Go World Travel, and other outlets. A lifelong New Yorker and avid traveler, she also writes on food, theater, and other cultural events. Her blog, But I Digress…can be found at

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