Following his military service in WWII, Milan used the GI Bill to enroll in the Art Students League of New York taking courses in drawing, composition, and sculpture from an outstanding, world class faculty including Jose de Creeft, William Zorach, and Will Barnet. He was close friends with Audrey Nunn, a painting student at ASL, and Atillio Fierro, who carved a bust of Emil as a class assignment.
Excerpt #1 from Emil milan: midcentury master:
The Art Students League of New York
Emil enrolled in the Art Students League of New York in the fall of 1946, starting in the morning sculpture course taught by Jose de Creeft. The course was intense, meeting from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., six days a week. In the tradition of the Art Students League, it was an atelier based on demonstration and hands-on experience. Spanish-born de Creeft was a highly successful sculptor at the height of his career. He had pioneered direct carving into stone just decades before, putting the sculptor in total control of the product from beginning to end. Prior to that, sculptors made small models that were transferred to full size by artisans using pantographs and pointing machines. De Creeft proudly stated in the Art Students League Catalog, "There is no modeling in this course." Without a model to rely on, de Creeft taught his students to visualize and draw their creative conceptions before carving. De Creeft taught his students to see endless possibilities within each block of material they approached. They had to decide on one and then remove material to reveal it. Direct carving required extreme confidence and a clear vision of the final desired form. Years later, Emil would teach this same approach to students in his woodworking classes.
Emil subsequently took two courses from distinguished graphic artist and painter Will Barnet. According to the 1948-49 Art Students League Catalog, Barnet emphasized "structural design and the formal elements of drawing and composition." He had an intellectual approach to art and his courses were more similar to college courses than others taught at the Art Students League. He challenged students to think deeply about composition and took them beyond the classroom to New York's museums where he analyzed paintings by the modern masters such as Cezanne, Correggio, Velasquez, Manet, Picasso, and Matisse. He published analyses and critiques in the League Quarterly and taught his students his personal language and theory of composition.
Excerpt #2 from Emil milan: midcentury master:
Building on more than 240 hours of instruction in sculpture from de Creeft, Emil enrolled between 1948 and 1951 in more sculpture courses, two by John Hovannes and three by William Zorach. Both were distinguished sculptors and taught direct carving like de Creeft.[i] At the midpoint of the twentieth century, it is hard to imagine a more distinguished threesome from whom to learn sculpture. All three were renowned and successful independent artists. Each was highly engaged in their profession, playing various administrative and leadership roles in art organizations such as the Sculptors Guild. Each was active in the art world swirling around the museums, galleries, exhibits, critics, curators, and collectors in New York City during the postwar decades.