(Cleveland, Ohio, 1909 - 1997, Walnut Creek, California)
Elmer Novotny began his art career at the age of thirteen, executing his first portrait commission under the direction of his father, an amateur artist. Developing a passion for painting he enrolled at the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art) under Henry Keller, receiving a BFA in 1930, continuing on to earn a BS in Education from Western Reserve College (now Case Western Reserve University) in 1935 and an MFA from Kent State University in 1936. Novotny also trained abroad, at the University of London and the Academy of Zagreb, Croatia and at Yale University. He began working at Kent State as a graduate student and returned after the completion of his studies to teach. After almost 40 years, during which he was named Director of the School of Art, Novotny retired in 1974. He is credited with forming the Kent State University School of Art into what it is today.
An unapologetic realist, Novotny is known for his portraits and sympathetic portrayals of workers and working class families during the 1930s. Novotny was named the Kent State outstanding faculty member of the year in 1965 and was awarded the Kent State University President’s Medal in 1972. He exhibited at the Milwaukee Art Institute, Wisconsin; the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Akron Art Institute, Ohio; and the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He produced over 1,500 paintings, including portraits of every Kent State University president, before his death in 1997.