Jan Matulka was a Czech-American modern artist originally from Bohemia. Matulka's style ranged from Abstract Expressionism to landscapes, sometimes in the same day. Matulka was born on 7 November 1890 in Vlachovo Březí, Bohemia, then part of Austria–Hungary and now part of Czech Republic. In 1907 Jan, his parents Maria and John, and his five younger sisters moved to The Bronx. Soon after John separated from Jan's mother and left the family alone and with little money.
In 1908 Jan Matulka began studying at the National Academy of Design in New York City. Upon graduation in 1917 Matulka met Ludmila "Lída" Jiroušková who would on 1 May 1918 become his wife. Lída Matulka worked for the New York Public Library as the head of the Czechoslovak literature section and helped connect her husband to the larger cultural community.
Between 1917 and 1918 Matulka traveled around the United States and the Caribbean as the first recipient of the Joseph Pulitzer National Traveling Scholarship, painting as he went. While in the Southwest he became one of the first modern artists to portray the Hopi snake rain dance.