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Blue Green Abstraction

Period 1950-1979
Materials Oil on paper
Dimensions
W. 26 in; H. 21 in;
W. 66.04 cm; H. 53.34 cm;
Creation Date 1952
Description Signed and dated 1952 lower left.

Vaclav Vytlacil (1892-1984)

He was born to Czechoslovakian parents in 1892 in New York City. Living in Chicago as a youth, he took classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, returning to New York when he was 20. From 1913 to 1916, he enjoyed a scholarship from the Art Students League, and worked with John C. Johansen (a portraitist whose expressive style resembled that of John Singer Sargent), and Anders Zorn.

He accepted a teaching position at the Minneapolis School of Art in 1916, remaining there until 1921. This enabled him to travel to Europe to study Cézanne’s paintings and works of the Old Masters. He traveled to Paris, Prague, Dresden, Berlin, and Munich seeking the works of Titian, Cranach, Rembrandt, Veronese, and Holbein, which gave him new perspective. Vytlacil studied at the Royal Academy of Art in Munich, settling there in 1921. Fellow students were Ernest Thurn and Worth Ryder, who introduced him to famous abstractionist Hans Hofmann. He worked with Hofmann from about 1922 to 1926, as a student and teaching assistant.

During the summer of 1928, after returning to the United States, Vytlacil gave lectures at the University of California, Berkeley, on modern European art. Soon thereafter, he became a member of the Art Students League faculty. After one year, he returned to Europe and successfully persuaded Hofmann to teach at the League as well. He spent about six years in Europe, studying the works of Matisse, Picasso, and Dufy. In 1935, he returned to New York and became a co-founder of the American Abstract Artists group in 1936. He later had teaching posts at Queens College in New York; the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California; Black Mountain College in North Carolina; and the Art Students League.

His paintings exhibit a clear inclination toward modernism. His still lives and interiors from the 1920s indicate an understanding of the art of Cézanne. In the 1930s, his works displayed two very different kinds of art at the same time. His cityscapes and landscapes combine Cubist-inspired spatial concerns with an expressionistic approach to line and color. Vytlacil also used old wood, metal, cork, and string in constructions, influenced by his friend and former student, Rupert Turnbull. He eventually ceased creating constructions as he considered them too limiting. The spatial challenges of painting were still his preference. During the 1940s and 1950s, his works indicated a sense of spontaneity not felt in his earlier work.

He married Elizabeth Foster in Florence, Italy, in 1927 and they lived and worked in Positano, Italy for extended periods of time. Later on, they divided their time between homes in Sparkill, New York and Chilmark, Massachusetts, where Vyt, as he was affectionately called, taught at the Martha's Vineyard Art Association beginning in 1941. He was associated with the Old Sculpin Group and often exhibited his works in its galleries on the island.

He was honored with solo shows at The Carnegie Institute, Montclair Art Museum, Phillips Memorial Gallery, Krasner Gallery, University of Notre Dame, Rochester Art Gallery, and others.

Vaclav Vytlacil died in 1984 in New York, at age 92.

COLLECTIONS
Boca Raton Museum of Art, FL
Chicago Municipal Collection, IL
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, CO
Dessau Museum, Germany
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Milwaukee Art Institute, WI
Neuberger Museum of Art, NY
New Jersey State Museum, NJ
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, PA
Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
Rochester Museum of Art, NY
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NE
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
University of Notre Dame Art Gallery in South Bend, IN
University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie, WY
Whitney Museum of American Art, NY

AWARDS
1913 Prize, Art Institute of Chicago
1936 Gold Prize, Art Institute of Chicago
1936 Gold Prize, France
1914 Honorable Mention, Society of American Artists

EXHIBITIONS
1913, 1914-1920, 1936, 1937-41 Art Institute of Chicago
1915, 1945-64 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Annual, Philadelphia
1916-49 Corcoran Gallery Biennials, Washington, D.C.
1917 Society of Independent Artists
1936 France
1914 Society of American Artists
1938-62 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1942, 1944, 1945 Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh
1944 “Artists for Victory,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
1955 Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1951 Feigle Gallery in New York, NY
1975 Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey, retrospective
1980-81 Diamond Museum of Fine Art, NYC (solo exhibition)

Sources include:
Askart from several issues of the Vineyard Gazette, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Styles / Movements Abstract Expressionism, Modernism
Incollect Reference Number 197405
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