Born in 1892 to Czechoslovakian parents in New York, Vaclav Vytlacil spent his boyhood in Chicago, Illinois. It was apparent from an early age that Vytlacil was especially talented in the arts and his parents soon enrolled him in the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1913, Vytlacil received a scholarship to study at the Art Students League in New York. Under the tutelage of the famous portraitist John C. Johansen, Vytlacil learned to paint as an impressionist. After graduating he returned to the midwest as a faculty member at the Minneapolis School of Art.
By 1921, Vytlacil had saved enough of his earnings to travel to Europe and study the works of Cezanne and other artists. Eventually, Vytlacil enrolled at the Royal Academy of Art in Munich, Germany. When fellow classmate Ernest Thurn withdrew from the Academy in order to enroll in Hans Hofmann's school, Vytlacil follwed suit. In Hans Hofmann, Vytlacil found a cutting-edge instructor and friend and the two later worked together. In 1924, Vytlacil and Thurn organized Hofmann's summer school on the island of Capri. Vytlacil became an influential advocate of Hofmann's modernist teachings. Fundamental to his approach was an appreciation that drawing was the foundational methodology of painting followed by the application of color to influence space.
Vytlacil on the Vineyard
In 1941, Vytlacil purchased a studio in Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard and painted there during the summer. New York Times art critic Howard Devree ranked Vytlacil alongside Braque, Matisse, and Picasso. Vytlacil's legacy lives on not only in his abstract canvases but in the work of his students. Among them were Louise Bourgeois, Robert Blackburn, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Cy Twombly, Tony Smith, Knox Martin, Frank O'Cain, and Catherine Redmond.