January 30, 2013

Vincent Navratil, Mlejnek z Viru/Mill in Vir

this picture and the next one courtesy of  
the Horácké Muzeum (Nové Mesto na Moravé)

Vir is a small community of some 750 inhabitants in the Bohemian-Moravian highlands of the Czech Republic, attractive because of its location in beautiful surroundings and surprising because of a unique artistic installation.

Life and work

To please his children, Vincent Navratil, in the nineteen-forties in the vicinity of his house began constructing an installation with movable wooden characters, depicted two-dimensional and mainly in side view, showing scenes from daily life, like carpenters and  blacksmiths at work, dancers, people drinking, trapeze artists, and so on.

The machinery could be set in motion by a paddle wheel in the nearby flowing creek, and when water supply was low, Navratil would activate it manually. In wintertime the structure would be safely stored in a shed.

With a job as a handyman at the local textile factory, Navratil could easily acquire surplus machinery parts to build up the installation.

Begun modestly, the number of characters in the course of the years grew, also because Vincent's son Adolf joined his father in making them, and eventually, in the seventies, the installation included some seventy characters.

 above and below pictures (2012) of characters 
(installation in the museum) 
courtesy of Babeta from her weblog Babetina Galerie

Donated to the Horácké Museum

In 1986 Vincent's grandson has donated the installation to the Horácké Museum in Nové Mesto na Moravé, where, after a renovation, it was exhibited in the museum's garden. The installation has become one of the museum's main attractions.

A replica in Vir

The community of Vir, however, has arranged that a replica of the installation was made, which in 2007 was placed on a spot along the Bystnce stream that boards the village.

The video below (by Hana Procházkóva, YouTube, june 2009, 2'51') shows the replica in action

Pavel Konečný & Šimon Kadlčák, Atlas spontánního umění (Atlas of spontaneous art), Prague, 2016 (ISBN 978-80-906599-1-9). p. 132-141

first published jan 2013, revised april 2017

Vincent Navratil
Mlejnek z Viru
Vir (nr 205e)
replica, free to visit
Nové Mesto na Moravé 
original in Horácké Museum    
Czech Republic


  1. Wonderful! Thanks Henk to share with us those fantastic Artists; here again is an example of an Outsider of great talent. Vincent Navratil has surely made some extraordinary works.
    Thanks again and carry on your good work :)
    All the best!

  2. @ Françoise, thank you, these rotating scenes in the installation are wonderful indeed. All the best !