Alphonse Mucha was the father of French Art Nouveau. At the time he entered the field, his contemporaries called him out-dated. At least he was able to live long enough to witness their change of heart.
Alphonse Mucha (Alphons Mucha) is known by many to be the father of Art Nouveau. I first became interested in his artwork when I saw a reproduction of one of his posters on a silver tin box at a roadside stall in Berkeley. There are many books dedicated to his biography, artwork and the way he influenced an entire generation of French painters, so I need not go into detail here. Check out his Wiki, or this nice collection of his paintings online.
The thing I particularly love about Mucha’s art is the way in which he uses the colors to draw the eye in and out of caricature. His drawings are, all at once, realistic and fantastic, and especially in his portraits of women, he adds an air of ethereal beauty so common in old world paintings (yet updated) that I would be hard pressed to find another artist like him.