Vaclav Vytlacil (1892 – 1984)
Vaclav Vytlacil was one of the forerunners of American modernism, working hard to bring autonomy to contemporary art forms like Abstract Expressionism in the United States. As a student of Hans Hoffman and a teacher to such famous artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Vytlacil was at the center of a revolutionary assemblage of talented painters, all of whom contributed immensely to the progress of American art in the twentieth century.
Vaclav Vytlacil, the son of Czech immigrants, was born in New York on November 1, 1892. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1906, and in 1913, he earned a scholarship to study at the Art Student League in New York under the direction of Luminist painter John C. Johansen and Realist Anders Zorn.
In 1921, after five years of teaching at the Minneapolis School of Art, Vytlacil decided to travel to Europe. Vytlacil married Elizabeth Foster in Florence on August 18, 1927. They came back to the United States for one year when Ryder, a professor at Berkeley, asked him to teach a lecture course called The Modern Painting and Sculpture of Europe. They returned to the States permanently in 1935, when Vytlacil began to teach at the Florence Cane School in Rockefeller Center, New York City. Throughout his life, Vytlacil would also teach at the Art Student League, Black Mountain College, Queens College, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Cy Twombly, James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, Tony Smith, and Louise Bourgeousn were among his many students.
Vaclav Vytlacil died on Thursday, January 5th, 1984 in New York at the age of 91. In 1996, Anne Vytlacil Williams bequeathed his house and studio in Sparkhill, New York to the Art Students League, which in turn founded the Vytlacil School of Painting and Sculpture. The school offers high caliber, yet affordable classes to many of the city’s artistic residents.
Vytlacil maintained an interest in abstraction throughout his life but stopped short of achieving pure nonobjective art. His true gift to the art world lay in his continued advocacy of modern painting. Through his work and lengthy teaching career, his cutting-edge ideas reached a wide range of viewers and influenced an entire generation of younger artists.