Updated: Tue, 09 Apr 2013 16:49:07 GMT | By Agence France-Presse

Tennis star Lendl's art poster collection on show in Prague

Sport will meet art on Wednesday, when Czech-born tennis star Ivan Lendl's near exhaustive collection of Art Nouveau posters by painter Alfons Mucha goes on display in Prague.


Tennis star Lendl's art poster collection on show in Prague

A visitor looks at original posters of Czech artist Alfons Mucha during an exhibition on April 9, 2013 at the Municipal House in Prague. The collection belongs to Czech tennis player, Ivan Lendl, who has been collecting these works for thirty years.

With the determination that earned him eight grand slam titles and 270 weeks as world number one, Lendl, 53, collected all but three of the original Mucha posters over the years.

"He's very serious and very focused when he's on the tennis court, and he's just as focused when it comes to... Alfons Mucha," curator Jack Rennert told reporters Tuesday.

The exhibition at the Art Nouveau Municipal House features 116 of Mucha's 119 posters alongside dozens of his other paintings.

After moving to Paris, Mucha (1860-1939) gained fame for his posters of French actress Sarah Bernhardt, which he embellished with the flowing floral motifs typical of the Art Nouveau style.

The first, painted to advertise the Gismonda melodrama starring Bernhardt, turned him into a star in Paris overnight.

That poster opens the exhibition -- located above a hall designed by Mucha himself -- where an artificial grass carpet was laid as a nod to Lendl's sport.

Lendl first became acquainted with Mucha's work upon meeting the artist's grandson in 1982, two years before he left Communist Czechoslovakia for the United States.

The posters, on display until late July, advertise plays, food and beverages, bicycles and even a Czech insurer.

Skipping the show opening, Lendl said in a video spot that after moving from Connecticut to Florida a few years ago, "I felt sorry to leave the collection there on its own".

So the posters went on display, fuelling a Mucha fever in Prague after last year's exhibition of "The Slav Epic," his huge cycle of 20 allegories partly inspired by Slavic mythology.

When Lendl comes to Prague later this month to inspect the exhibition, the grass on the floor will no doubt remind him of Wimbledon, the only grand slam tournament he never won.

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