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 1940s 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 these characters, and eventually, in the 1970s, 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 Bystice stream that boards the village.

Pavel Konečný & Šimon Kadlčák, Atlas spontánního umění (Atlas of spontaneous art), Prague, 2016 (ISBN 978-80-906599-1-9). p. 132-141
* On Facebook a short video of the replica in action, made in 2022 by Tiramisu Bootfighter on a trip in Eastern Europe

first published January 2013, revised September 2022

Vincent Navratil
Mlejnek z Viru
Vir (nr 205e), Okres Žďár and Sázavou district, Vysočina region, Czech Republic
replica, free to visit

original in Horácké Museum,  Nové Mesto na Moravé    
Okres Žďár and Sázavou district, Vysočina region, 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 !