In the Spring of 2010,The New York Times obituary of internationally-acclaimed artist Louise Bourgeois singled out her study at The Art Students League with teacher Vaclav Vytlacil, the modernist painter whose home and studio were donated in 1996 to create the League's Vytlacil Campus. Sixty years earlier the paper's art critic, Howard Devree, ranked Vytlacil alongside Braque, Matisse, Picasso, and Ben Shahn. Vytlacil, he wrote, "both as teacher and painter, [is] a decided force in contemporary American painting."
Vytlacil (1892-1984), born in New York to Czech immigrant parents, was a longtime teacher at the Art Students League who played a role in promoting European modernism here in the 1930's. As a founding member of the American Abstract Artists in 1936, he pushed actively for the recognition of homegrown American abstraction. In addition to teaching at the League, “Vyt” taught at the Minneapolis School of Art, University of California at Berkeley, Queens College, and the California College of Arts and Crafts. His works are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art. He was an early and active supporter of civil rights and environmental causes.
Today, Vytlacil's legacy lives on not only in his arresting abstract canvases, but in the work of his students. In addition to Bourgeois, he taught leading artists Robert Blackburn, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Cy Twombly, Knox Martin, Frank O'Cain, and Catherine Redmond.
Vyt's devotion to making and teaching art is also carried on through Art Students League of New York’s international residency program. A gift from Vaclav’s family, the League received property and funding to develop a place where artists from around the world may immerse themselves in the environs and creative spirit of his estate.
To learn more about Vaclav Vytlacil, see:
New York Times Review of 2000 Exhibition, Vaclav Vytlacil and the Advent of American Modernism, 1920-1940
Bio at Sullivan Gross Gallery
Bio at Mark Borghi Fine Art Inc.
Bio at Hollis Taggart Galleries
New York Times Obituary