Vaclav Vytlacil papers, 1885-1990

A Finding Aid to the Vaclav Vytlacil Papers, 1885-1990, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Vaclav Vytlacil (1892-1984) was an abstract painter and art instructor who worked primarily in the New York city area. He was also one of the co-founders of the American Abstract Artists group.

Born in New York City of Czech parentage, Vytlacil moved at an eaarly age with his family to Chicago. Beginning in 1906 he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago under Antonin Sterba for approximately 3 years. In 1912 he graduated as William Vytlacil from Crane Technical and English High School. After receiving a scholarship in 1913, Vytlacil returned to New York to study at the Art Students League with John C. Johansen for three years. From 1917 to 1921 Vytlacil was employed as an instructor at the Minneapolis School of Art.

Beginning in 1921 Vytlacil traveled to Paris, Prague, and Munich, deciding to remain in the latter city indefinitely. He enrolled as a student at the Royal Academy of Art in Munich with fellow American art students Worth Ryder and Ernest Thurn. Vytlacil first studied under Karl Kaspar and, a year later, he and Ernest Thurn enrolled at the Hans Hofmann School in Munich. Vytlacil studied with Hofmann sporadically over the next seven years.

On August 18, 1927, Vytlacil married Elizabeth Foster of St. Paul, Minnesota at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. In the following year, he accepted an invitation to teach at the Art Students League and became an invited lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley during the summer terms of 1928 to 1929. Vytlacil urged Hans Hofmann, with his assistance, to come to the United States to teach at the Art Students League during the 1931-1932 term. Also during the early 1930s, Vytlacil and his wife spent summers in Positano, Italy, and winters in Paris.

In 1935 the Vytlacils returned permanently from Europe to live at 8 West 13th Street in New York City, where they stayed for three years. Vytlacil resumed teaching at the Art Students League, spending the summer sessions teaching at the California College of Arts and Crafts. In the following year he accepted an invitation to teach at the Florence Cane School at Rockefeller Center and continued teaching during the summer session at the California College of Arts and Crafts. It was also during 1936 that Vytlacil co-founded the American Abstract Artists with thirteen other artists.

While continuing to teach at the Art Students League and at the Florence Cane School, Vytlacil began conducting art classes at the Dalton School, where he taught until 1941. In 1938, he moved from New York City to South Mountain Road in New City. Two years later, Vytlacil established his residence and studio in Sparkill, New York, and in 1941, he acquired property in Martha??s Vineyard which provided a place to work during the summers.

In 1942, Vytlacil left the Art Students League to become Chairman of the Art Department of Queens College in Flushing, New York. He held this position until 1945, when he accepted an invitation to teach at Black Mountain College. From 1946 to 1951, he returned as instructor at the Art Students League and began selling his artwork through the Feigl Gallery in New York. He also taught at the Minneapolis School of Art in 1947, and at Columbia University in 1950.

From 1952 to 1954, Vytlacil traveled to Colorado to paint and teach at the summer sessions of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. After a summer spent on Monhegan Island, Maine, Vytlacil and his wife spent 1955 in Europe. Upon his return in 1956, he became a guest instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago and, in the following year, he taught a summer session at Boston College.

During the winter months of 1960 and 1961, Vytlacil lived in Oaxaca, Mexico. In 1964, he was a guest instructor at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.

Vytlacil was a member of the Art Students League of New York, the American Abstract Artists, the Federation of American Painters and Sculptors, and the Audubon Artists.

Vaclav Vytlacil died at his home in Sparkill, New York on January 5, 1984.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of abstract painter and art instructor Vaclav Vytlacil date from 1885-1990 and measure 5.1 linear feet. Found within the papers are scattered biographical materials, correspondence, scattered business and financial records, and notes and writings including lecture notes. The papers also contain audio recordings of interviews of Vytlacil and his associates, artwork by Vytlacil and others, four scrapbooks, printed material including clippings and exhibition catalogs, and photographs of Vytlacil, his colleagues, and his artwork.

Scattered biographical materials include documents relating to family history and biographical accounts for Vytlacil. Correspondence consists of letters exchanged between Vytlacil and his wife and colleagues including Josef Albers, Worden Day, Hugo Feigl, John Haley, Alfred Jensen, Irving Manoir, Mercedes Matter, Worth Ryder, Ernest Thurn, and Glenn Wessels.

Scattered business and financial records consist of teaching contracts and scattered financial records. Notes and writings include lecture notes, notebooks concerning teaching, minutes of meetings, essays, and writings by others. Three untranscribed sound recordings on cassette contain an interview of Vytlacil by Susan Larsen and interviews of Vytlacil's students and associates.

Artwork consists of drawings and prints by Vytlacil and others, etchings by Betty Vytlacil, and a color woodcut by Zalmar. Four scrapbooks contain printed materials and artwork by students compiled as a get-well gift to Vytlacil. Additional printed materials include numerous clippings, exhibition catalogs, and art school catalogs. Photographs in the collection are of Vytlacil, family members, his artwork, and his colleagues including Blanche Lazzell and Irving Manoir with Diego Rivera. An unidentified 8mm reel motion picture film shows views of Manhattan and a family outing.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 10 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:


  • Lazzell, Blanche,1878-1956 -- Photographs
  • Manoir, Irving K. (Irving Kraut),1891-1982 -- Photographs
  • Rivera, Diego, 1886-1957 -- Photographs


  • Art -- Study and teaching
  • Art teachers -- New York (State)-- New York
  • Painters -- New York (State)-- New York


Types of Materials:

  • Drawings
  • Etchings
  • Interviews
  • Motion pictures (visual works)
  • Photographs
  • Prints
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sound recordings
  • Woodcuts
  • Writings


  • Albers, Josef
  • Day, Worden, 1916-1986
  • Feigl, Hugo
  • Haley, John, 1905-1991
  • Jensen, Alfred, 1903-1981
  • Larsen, Susan C.
  • Manoir, Irving K.$q(Irving Kraut), 1891-1982
  • Matter, Mercedes
  • Ryder, Worth, 1884-1960
  • Thurn, Ernest
  • Vytlacil, Elizabeth Foster, 1899-
  • Wessels, Glenn, 1895-1982
  • Zalmar


The Vaclav Vytlacil papers were donated in several installments from 1989 to 1993 by Vaclav Vytlacil??s daughter, Anne Vytlacil. Approximately two dozen letters that were lent for filming in 1966 were subsequently donated in 1989.

Separated and Related Materials

Materials loaned to the Archives for microfilming on reel D295 include correspondence, lecture notes, general notes, clippings, notebooks concerning paintings, photographs of paintings, photographs titled ??Vineyard Boats,?? and 2 of Mrs. Vytlacil??s Paris journals. Loaned material is not described in the container list of this finding aid.

Also found in the Archives of American Art are oral history interviews with Vaclav Vytlacil, March 2, 1966 and January 10, 1974, and 19 items microfilmed on reel 2016 relating to a 1975 Montclair Art Museum exhibition organized by Worden Day.

How the Collection was Processed

The Vaclav Vytlacil papers were processed in May 2007 by Jean Fitzgerald.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of the original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Vaclav Vytlacil papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Vaclav Vytlacil papers, 1885-1990. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1885, 1933-1981
(Box 1; 3 folders)

Biographical material includes ancestral documents, membership cards and certificates for organizations including the Art Students League and Audubon Artists, and miscellaneous biographical accounts for Vytlacil.

1 Birth Certificate for Anna and Death Certificate for Unidentified Relative, 1885
1 Membership Cards and Certificates, 1942-1955
1 Miscellaneous Biographical Notes for Vytlacil, 1933-1981, undated

Series 2: Correspondence, 1911-1985
(Boxes 1-2, 7; 2.0 linear feet)

Correspondence consists of letters exchanged between Vytlacil and his wife and colleagues including Josef Albers, Worden Day, Hugo Feigl, John Haley, Alfred Jensen, Irving Manoir, Mercedes Matter, Worth Ryder, Ernest Thurn, and Glenn Wessels. There are single letters from Romare Bearden, Joseph Hirshhorn, Miz Hofmann, and Ludwig Sander. The letters primarily discuss art school-related matters and the exhibition and sale of Vytlacil??s work.

1 Correspondence, undated
(2 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1911
1 Correspondence, 1912
(8 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1913
(4 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1916
1 Correspondence, 1920-1926
1 Correspondence, 1927
(see also Box 7 for oversized items)
1 Correspondence, 1928
1 Correspondence, 1929
1 Correspondence, 1930
1 Correspondence, 1931-1932
1 Correspondence, 1933
1 Correspondence, 1935
1 Correspondence, 1936
(5 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1937
(2 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1938-1939
1 Correspondence, 1940
1 Correspondence, 1941
1 Correspondence, 1942
(3 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1943
(6 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1944
(5 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1945
(6 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1946
1 Correspondence, 1947
(2 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1948
(2 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1949
(3 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1950
(4 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1951
(3 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1952
(2 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1953
(2 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1954
(3 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1955
1 Correspondence, 1956
1 Correspondence, 1957
1 Correspondence, 1958
1 Correspondence, 1959
2 Correspondence, 1960
2 Correspondence, 1961-1962
2 Correspondence, 1963
2 Correspondence, 1964
2 Correspondence, 1965
2 Correspondence, 1966
(2 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1967
(2 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1968
(3 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1969
2 Correspondence, 1970
2 Correspondence, 1971
(3 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1972
(5 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1973
(12 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1974
(8 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1975
(9 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1976
(5 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1977
(4 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1978
(2 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1979
(2 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1980
(3 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1981
(2 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1982
2 Correspondence, 1983
2 Correspondence, 1984-1985
7 (sol) Oversized Draft of Letter from Vytlacil to His Wife, 1927
(from Box 1)

Series 3: Business Records, 1912-1982
(Box 3; 11 folders)

Business records consist of legal documents primarily concerning Vytlacil??s employment as an art instructor and scattered financial records.

3 City of New York Teaching Licenses, 1914-1916
3 Art Students League Teaching Contracts, 1935-1961
(3 folders)
3 Art Students League Employees?? Benefit Plan, 1946
3 Dalton School Teaching Contracts, 1937-1954
3 Reorganization Documents Concerning Dalton Schools, Inc., 1942-1945
3 Record Book of Expenditures, 1912-1916
3 Account Book for Summer School in Edgartown, Massachusetts, 1949
3 Ledger of Artwork Sold, 1969
3 Miscellaneous Records and Receipts, 1931-1982, undated

Series 4: Notes and Writings, 1928-1978
(Boxes 3, 7; 0.9 linear feet)

This series includes notebooks concerning artist materials, address lists, lists of purchasers of Vytlacil??s work, lecture notes, annual reports and minutes of meetings held by various schools in which Vytlacil was an instructor, and miscellaneous notes and typescripts by Vytlacil and others concerning art-related topics.

3 Address Books, undated
(2 folders)
3 Address Lists, 1971-1978, undated
3 Notebook 1 Concerning Artists?? Materials, undated
3 Notebook 2 Concerning Artists?? Materials, undated
3 Notebook 3 Concerning Artists?? Materials, undated
3 Lists of Purchasers of Vytlacil??s Work, 1971-1973, undated
3 Lists of Artwork, 1963-1973, undated
3 Lists of Artwork Sent to Feigl Gallery, 1946-1953
3 List of Artwork Sent to the Montclair Museum, 1975
3 Notebook Concerning Exhibitions, 1959-1963
3 Lecture Notes for University of California, Berkeley, Summer Sessions, 1928-1929, undated
(5 folders)
3 Annual Reports for Department of Art, Queens College, 1942-1944
(2 folders)
3 Minutes of Meetings at Queens College, 1942-1945
(4 folders)
3 Lectures Notes from Queens College, 1942-1945
(2 folders)
3 Miscellaneous Notes Concerning Queens College, 1942-1945, undated
(9 folders)
3 List of Students at Dalton School, 1947-1948
3 Notebook 1 Concerning Edgartown Summer School, 1947
3 Notebook 2 Concerning Edgartown Summer School, 1948
3 Notebook 3 Concerning Edgartown Summer School, 1950
3 Notebook 4 Concerning Edgartown Summer School, 1954
3 Annual Reports for the Art Students League, 1948-1951
3 Miscellaneous Class Outlines, undated
(2 folders)
3 Miscellaneous Lecture Notes, undated
(7 folders)
3 Notes on ??Dynamic Symmetry,?? 1960
3 Autobiographical Account, undated
(2 folders)
3 Typescript ??Special Events,?? undated
3 Manuscript Concerning Art History Education, undated
3 Typescript ??The Development of the Creative Process,?? undated
3 Typescript ??The Motif,?? undated
3 Typescript Concerning Positano, Italy, 1932
3 Draft of Book on the Techniques of Painting, 1954
(3 folders)
3 Typescript ????Or So I Think?? by Frederick Childs, undated
3 Typescript ??March of Time?? by an Unidentified Author, undated
3 Typescript ??American Geometric Abstraction of the 1930s?? by John Gordon, 1962
3 Miscellaneous Writings by Students, 1945, undated
7 (sol) Oversized Typescript on Vytlacil by Murray Turnbull, undated
(see also Box 3)

Series 5: Interviews (Sound Recordings), 1974, 1984
(Box 4; 2 folders)

Three audio-cassettes contain interviews with Vytlacil and with his students and associates.

4 Untranscribed Audio-Cassette Interview of Vytlacil by Susan Larsen, 1974
4 Untranscribed Audio-Cassette Interviews of Vytlacil??s Students and Associates, 1984

Series 6: Artwork, 1921-1952
(Boxes 4, 7; 5 folders)

Artwork consists of drawings by Vytlacil and others, etchings by Betty Vytlacil, and a color woodcut by Zalmar.

4 Miscellaneous Drawings by Vytlacil, undated
(see also Box 7 for oversized items)
4 Drawing and Etchings by Betty Vytlacil, 1921, undated
4 Drawing by Majka Vurmova, undated
4 Woodcut by Zalmar, 1952
(oversized; see Box 7)
7 Oversized Sheet of Drawings by Vytlacil, undated
(removed from Box 4)
7 Oversized Color Woodcut by Zalmar, 1952
(removed from Box 4)

Series 7: Scrapbooks, 1927-1979
(Boxes 4, 7; 4 folders)

Scrapbooks 1 and 2 contain clippings, lecture announcements, and exhibition announcements and catalogs. Scrapbooks 3 and 4 contain artwork by students compiled as get-well gifts for Vytlacil.

4 Scrapbook 1, 1927-1933, undated
(oversized; see Box 7)
4 Scrapbook 2, 1928-1942, undated
(oversized; see Box 7)
4 Scrapbook 3, 1978
4 Scrapbook 4, 1979
7 Oversized Scrapbook 1, 1927-1933, undated
(removed from Box 4)
7 Oversized Scrapbook 2, 1928-1942, undated
(removed from Box 4)

Series 8: Printed Material, 1912-1990
(Boxes 4-5, 7; 1.3 linear feet)

Printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs for Vytlacil and others, copies of Vytlacil??s high school year book, art school brochures, programs, and miscellaneous brochures.

4 Clippings, 1912-1984, undated
(35 folders; see also Box 7 for oversized items)
4 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1936-1990, undated
(18 folders)
4 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs for Others, 1960-1983
(2 folders)
5 High School Yearbooks, 1912
(2 folders)
5 Calendars of Events, 1947-1968
(3 folders)
5 Programs, 1975
5 Miscellaneous Art School Catalogs, 1937-1983, undated
(9 folders)
5 Auction Catalog, 1970
5 Booklet ??By-Laws of the Board of Education of the City of New York,?? 1939
5 Miscellaneous Brochures, 1966-1976, undated
(2 folders)
5 Miscellaneous Printed Material, undated
7 Oversized Clipping, Life Magazine, 1957
(removed from Box 4)
7 Oversized Clipping, 1972
(removed from Box 4)
7 Oversized Draft Proof of Magazine Cover Designed by Vytlacil, 1947

Series 9: Photographs, 1906-1976
(Boxes 6-7; 27 folders)

Photographs are of Vytlacil, family members, residences, exhibitions, artwork, and colleagues including Blanche Lazzell, and Irving Manoir with Diego Rivera. There are photographs of Hans Hofmann??s Munich art class picturing students Alice Fish, Betty Foster, Edgar Ruprecht, Isabel Ruprecht, and Ernest Thurn, and photographs of miscellaneous outings by Vytlacil??s art classes.

6 Photographs of Vytlacil, 1906-1973, undated
(3 folders; oversized items housed in Box 7)
6 Photographs of Family Members, 1927-1934, undated
6 Photographs of Miscellaneous Residences, 1929-1935, undated
6 Photographs of Travel, 1925-1960
6 Photographs of Art Class Outings, 1951-1953
6 Photographs of Vytlacil with Colleagues, 1926-1949, undated
(3 folders; oversized items housed in Box 7)
6 Photographs of an Exhibition Installation, undated
6 Photographs of Artwork by Vytlacil, 1948-1976, undated
(15 folders)
6 Photographs of Artwork by Others, undated
7 Oversized Photograph of Vytlacil as an Instructor, 1946
(removed from Box 6)
7 Oversized Photograph of Blanche Lazzell and Her House, undated
(removed from Box 6)

Series 10: Motion Picture Film, circa 1930s-circa 1970s
(Box 6; 1 folder)

An 8mm reel of motion picture film shows views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty from a boat and a family outing with a child in the park.

6 Reel of Motion Picture Film, circa 1930s-circa 1970s