William Pachner was a Czech-born American painter who made his home in Woodstock, New York from 1945. He studied art in Vienna and worked as an illustrator in Prague before coming to the United States in 1939 on the eve of World War II. During the war, his anti-fascist anti-Nazi illustrations appeared in the foremost national magazines. When he learned in 1945 that all members of his family had been exterminated by the Germans, he quit his commercial career and resolved never again to do a commercial job, but to paint what he felt.
Known as a colorist, Pachner's work includes satiric drawings, erotic figurative, biblical Judaic and Christian themes, photomontages and paintings of great color intensity. Late in his career, he turned to black and white after losing sight in his one good eye. The works in this show represent loss: absence of sight, family, homeland—everything— with the almost unbearable weight of personal and artistic annihilation. While their form, movement, and gesture embrace an essential vitality, these drawings also embody a silent horror and violence. The artist's final works embody a multiplicity of meanings and are an affirmation of humanness and the reminder of the sacredness of all life.
About his paintings, Pachner said, "I want, in each work, the world, like my countryman Mahler, the whole pie, not just one triangular wedge of it, but all of it in all of its contradictions, paradoxes, ironies, unbearable sorrows, indescribable joys, tragic comedy, farce, pathos and drama, both authentic and fraudulent. The world, I say to myself, on which all this takes place simultaneously—the world so incomprehensible, so dear, so much in need of our care, of our embrace."
In recent years, he has had shows at the Tampa Museum of Art, the Florida Holocaust Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts (St. Petersburg, Florida). In writing about Pachner's 2012 Tampa Museum show, Paul Smart of the Woodstock Times commented, "The works are abstract on the surface, and yet narrative in the ways the artist uses his mastery of the medium to relate internal stories and experiences that are less emotional outbursts, as seen in classic Abstract Expressionist works, and more like psychological essays, or spiritual contemplations in paint." the Florida Holocaust Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts (St. Petersburg, Florida)
A former teacher at the Art Students League in Woodstock, Pachner has had numerous one-man exhibitions in New York City and Florida, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts, two Ford Foundation grants, and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for painting. His work is represented in many museums and private collections, including the Whitney Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Butler Institute of American Art, The Florida Holocaust Museum, the Tampa Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts (St. Petersburg, Florida)s, and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. He turned 100 in April 2015. Pachner has two children: Ann Koolman Pachner (born 1944) and Charles Edward Pachner (born 1946). Pachner died in November 2017 at the age of 102.