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Alphonse Mucha’s influence on 1960s counter-culture

3 July 2017 by Felicity

Norman with his Jugband poster at the opening of the Alphonse Mucha: In Quest of Beauty exhibition at the Walker

A familiar face for many regular Walker visitors, Norman Killon worked as part of our visitor services team for 24 years before he retired in April this year.

Norman is also a font of musical knowledge, having DJ’d at Liverpool’s legendary nightclub Eric’s in the 1970s, and a great collector of musical memorabilia.

You can see two posters from Norman’s personal collection in our Alphonse Mucha: In Quest of Beauty exhibition, showing how Mucha influenced a counter-culture in the 1960s. Norman tells us more in this post:

“As a child of the sixties, being 15 in 1962, I lived through lots of cultural transitions. When 1966-67 arrived, the influence of Mucha became apparent. The British counter-culture via Oz magazine and International Times were using the flowing, hallucinogenic type face continually on their pages.

If you wished to own a poster, they advertised Mucha posters for sale. Alongside this, many LP sleeves (as we called them then) took on this look and used it inventively. It’s greatest influence was to be found in San Francisco and the concert posters for The Matrix, Family Dogg, Fillmore West and The Avalon Ballroom.

The Mucha exhibition shows original posters by the artist in all their glory. In addition, you can see two posters that took Mucha’s images and made them part of a counter-culture, along with an issue of Oz Magazine, which I collected when it was first issued.

My Jugband poster is inspired by Mucha’s Job poster, advertising cigarettes (also on show in the exhibition). I bought poster because I saw the Jim Kweskin Jugband supporting Peter Paul and Mary in 1967, when I spent three months in the States. Seven years later, the female member of the Jugband would have a worldwide hit with Midnight at the Oasis – her name is Maria Muldaur.

The other group featured on the poster is Big Brother and the Holding Company. They were formed in 1966 but four months prior to the 1967 October concert, Janis Joplin joined the group and the rest is history.

So if, like me, you had Mucha posters on the walls of your flat – or even if you didn’t! – go and see this exhibition. It will remain with you forever.”

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