The papers of abstract painter and art instructor Vaclav Vytlacil date from 1885-1990 and measure 5.2 linear feet. Found within the papers are scattered biographical materials, correspondence primarily discussing art school-related matters and the exhibition and sale of Vytlacil's work, 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.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of abstract painter and art instructor Vaclav Vytlacil date from 1885-1990 and measure 5.2 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. One small motion picture film reel, 8mm, shows views of Manhattan and a family outing.
The collection is arranged as 10 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1885, 1933-1981 (Box 1; 3 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1911-1985 (Boxes 1-2, 7; 2.0 linear feet)
Series 3: Business Records, 1912-1982 (Box 3; 11 folders)
Series 4: Notes and Writings, 1928-1978 (Boxes 3, 7; 0.9 linear feet)
Series 6: Artwork, 1921-1952 (Boxes 4, 7; 5 folders)
Series 7: Scrapbooks, 1927-1979 (Boxes 4, 7; 4 folders)
Series 8: Printed Material, 1912-1990 (Boxes 4-5, 7; 1.3 linear feet)
Series 9: Photographs, 1906-1976 (Boxes 6-7; 27 folders)
Series 10: Motion Picture Film, circa 1938-1968 (Box FC 8; 1 film reel)
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 early 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.
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.
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (D295) including correspondence, lecture notes, general notes, clippings, notebooks concerning paintings, photographs of paintings, photographs titled "Vineyard Boats," and two of Mrs. Vytacil's Paris journals. Two dozen of these letters were later donated. All other lent materials remain with the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Vaclav Vytlacil lent the Archives of American Art materials for microfilming in 1966. Vaclav Vytlacil's daughter, Anne Vytlacil, donated the Vaclav Vytlacil papers in several installments from 1989 to 1993.
Use of the original papers requires an appointment.
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.
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Biographical material, 1953-1981; 15 letters from Hans and Maria Hofmann, and two from Wessels to Hofmann, 1952-1964; correspondence with Ila Limerick and Peace and Pauline Alvarez regarding mostly their planned but uncompleted biography of Wessels, ca. 1959-1968; miscellaneous correspondence; typescripts of lectures by Wessels; photographs of Wessels, including one by Imogen Cunningham, 1956, Wessels with others, one of his work, and one by Wessels (?) of an outdoor scene; newspaper clippings and printed material, undated, 1959-1967 and 1982; and miscellany, 1932-1966.
The Hans Hofmann letters, written from New York and Provincetown, discuss the importance of painting, his and Wessel's work, his plans to come to Berkeley to accept an honorary doctorate, and his feelings toward Wessels, Erle Loran, and others. Three of the letters are written by his wife Maria. Wessels' letters to Hofmann relate to the University's choice of Erle Loran to present Hofmann's honorary doctorate.
The correspondence with Ila Limerick, and Peace and sometimes Pauline Alvarez, contain lengthy, detailed reminiscences by Wessels on personal and professional topics. The later correspondence with Peace Alvarez relates mainly to the deteriorating health of Wessels' wife, Kay.
The miscellaneous correspondence includes a letter from Wessels to Worth Ryder, 1943, relating to Erle Loran and John Haley; a letter from Alfred Frankenstein thanking Wessels for sending his paper "The New Approach to Nature in Painting"; a letter from Worth Ryder congratulating Wessels on his exhibition, 1959; a letter from Ansel Adams praising Wessels' work done at a Polaroid Corp. Workshop, 1965; and letters regarding a controversy surrounding credit for bringing Hofmann to U.C. Berkeley, including a copy of a letter from John Haley to Paul Cummings; from Wessels to Haley, 1978; and from Wessel's brother-in-law Willis Foster to James Elliott, Director, University Art Museum, 1986.
Included in the printed material are an issue of The Fortnightly (Feb. 26, 1932) which Wessels helped found and served as art editor, and The Argonaut (July 16, 1937), containing Wessels' weekly column on art.
Biographical / Historical:
Painter, lecturer, critic, and teacher; Berkeley, Calif. Born Captown, South Africa. Studied with Hans Hofmann in Munich. Professor of Art at University of California at Berkeley.
Donated 1991 by Willis Foster, Wessels' brother-in-law.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
An interview of Glenn Anthony Wessels conducted 1964 February 14, by Lewis Ferbraché, for the Archives of American Art.
Biographical / Historical:
Glenn Wessels (1895-1982) was the East Bay supervisor of the Federal Art Project (California) and educator of Berkeley, California Wessels was Born in Capetown, South Africa. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley. Wessels was a painter for the Federal Art Project in California during the Depression.
Originally recorded on 3 sound tape reels. Reformatted in 2010 as 3 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 9 min.
Conducted as part of the Archives of American Art's New Deal and the Arts project, which includes over 400 interviews of artists, administrators, historians, and others involved with the federal government's art programs and the activities of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Reel NDA 1: Typescript of an article by Wessels, "Modern American Art," concerning government patronage of the arts.
Reel NDA 10: A typescript of an address by Wessels delivered to the Pacific Art Teachers Association, ca. 1938.
Biographical / Historical:
East Bay supervisor of the Federal Art Project (Calif.) and educator, Berkeley, California; Born Capetown, South Africa. Teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. Was a painter for the Federal Art Project in California during the Depression.
Lent for microfilming 1964 by Glenn Wessels.
The Archives of American art does not own the original papers. Use is limited to the microfilm copy.