The exhibition entitled 'Butenko for the Little and Big Ones' is a selection of works from the artist's family collection. An insight into the archive containing both published and unpublished pieces has helped us understand the enormous range of the artist's activities and skills.
Bohdan Butenko was not only an illustrator but also an excellent satirist, screenwriter and cartoonist, painter, writer, author of posters, theatre and TV set designs, a creator of covers, books and other graphic design elements with an outstanding knowledge of typesetting and printing. He was also a hard worker, a constantly developing professional, ready to fulfil virtually any assignment but also possessing an unmistakable style.
With this exhibition, we aim to draw attention to that diversity and share the pleasure of exploring the phenomenon of Bohdan Butenko by taking a deep dive into his archives. We offer several possible tour directions. The first one is determined by humour – sometimes tender and subtle, sometimes provocative and playful, relying on slapstick, focused on the vis comica drawn from the faces, movements and shapes of the characters, as if coming straight from the world of Jacques Tati or Jean-Jacques Sempé. Another direction follows the style, allowing visitors to recognize the craftsmanship and persistence in developing the unmistakable Butenko pinxit brand. Regardless of the design purpose or scale, the consistently high quality of the oeuvre cannot be overlooked. It demonstrates the work ethos that allowed the artist to build a career spanning almost seven decades. Bohdan Butenko's popularity endures – not only because his works still bring us joy but also because the childhood of many generations has passed among the characters drawn by the artist: Gapiszon (Scatterbrain), Gucio and Cezar, Dong with a Luminous Nose, Marek Piegus, Little Miss Line, or Pankracy the Dog. We are opening Bohdan Butenko's archive for young and old alike, to revive the earliest memories of today's adults and allow them to share those with the little ones.
Illustrator, graphic artist, book designer, set designer, creator of posters, satirical drawings, comic books and films.
Born on 8 February 1931 in Bydgoszcz, son of Jan Butenko and Anna, née Jenicz. In 1939, the family settled in Warsaw. After the war, he lived in Pruszków, where he graduated from Tomasz Zan High School. In 1949, he began his studies at the State Higher School of Visual Arts, which was merged with the Academy of Fine Arts in 1950 and was known as the Academy of Visual Arts until 1957. He received his diploma in 1955, in the Book Graphics Studio of Jan Marcin Szancer, having illustrated The Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea by Nikolai Leskov. In the same year, he became the art editor of Nasza Księgarnia publishing house, where he worked full-time until 1964.
Butenko's debut as an illustrator came in 1954. A prolific illustrator, comic book author and cover designer, he collaborated with numerous Polish publishing houses, including Nasza Księgarnia, Iskry, Wydawnictwo Lekarskie PZWL, Ludowa Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza, Biuro Wydawnicze "Ruch", Czytelnik, Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, Interpress, PWN Polish Scientific Publishers, Prószyński Media, Zielona Sowa. Books with his illustrations were also issued by foreign publishing houses, such as: Mouton (France), Die Kinderbuchverlag (Germany), Die Buchpiloten (Germany), Fukuinkan Shoten (Japan), Gondolat (Hungary), Mora (Hungary), La joie de lire (Switzerland), Book Island (UK), Circonflexe (France). Butenko created illustrations and comic strips for various magazines for children and teenagers, including "Miś" (Gapiszon), "Płomyczek" (Miśka), "Świerszczyk" (Gucio and Cezar), "Świat Młodych" (Kleks), "Sztandar Młodych", "Płomyk" and for the French comics weekly "Vaillant" (Bibi).
He wrote and illustrated books and comic strips featuring his original characters: Gapiszon (e.g. Gapiszon w tarapatach [Scatterbrain in Trouble], 1970; Gapiszonowe to i owo [Scatterbrain's This and That], 1970; Pomysły Gapiszona [Scatterbrain's Ideas], 1970) and Kwapiszon (e.g. Kwapiszon i tajemnicza szkatułka [Kwapiszon and the Mysterious Casket], 1976; Ucieczka Kwapiszona [Kwapiszon’s Escape], 1976; Kwapiszon i beczka [Kwapiszon and the Barrel], 1978). He also authored many other books and comics, including Przygoda zajączka [Hare's Adventure], 1975; Miśka na tropie [Miśka on the Track], 1970; Pierwszy! Drugi!! Trzeci!!! [First! Second!! Third!!!], 1975; Niewidzialna Miśka [Invisible Miśka], 1989; Tajemnica piratów [Pirates’ Secret], 1990; Pyś, czyli wiadukt nad chaszczami [Pyś, or Overpass Over the Thicket, 1998; Nocna wyprawa [Nighttime Expedition], 2006; KrUlewna Śnieżka [Snow Wite], 2008; Bardzo nowe szaty króla [King’s Very New Clothes], 2009; Grzyby i król [Mushrooms and the King], 2013; Do wieńca wspomnień [Wreath of Memories], 2016; Wesoły kaszkiecik [Merrly Little Flat Cap], 2017; Dziura [The Hole], 2017.
He designed and illustrated books by numerous authors, including Edmund Niziurski (Niewiarygodne przygody Marka Piegusa [The Incredible Adventures of Marek Piegus], 1959; Nowe przygody Marka Piegusa [The New Adventures of Marek Piegus], 1997), Wiktor Woroszylski (I ty zostaniesz Indianinem [You Can Be an Indian Too], 1960; Cyryl, gdzie jesteś? [Cyryl, Where Are You?] 1962; Mniejszy szuka dużego [The Smaller One Looking for the Big One], 1971), Krystyna Boglar (Klementyna lubi kolor czerwony [Klementyna likes the Colour Red], 1970; Gucio and Cezar book series, since 1966), Wanda Chotomska (Tere-fere, 1958; Wiersze pod psem [Poems Under the Dog], 1959; Gdyby kózka nie skakała [If the Goat Had not Been Jumping], 1971), Erich Kästner (Emil and the Detectives, 1957; The 35th of May, 1957), Kornel Makuszyński (Panna z mokra głową [Miss Wet-Head], 1958), Jan Brzechwa (Tańcowała igła z nitką [Needle Dancing with the Thread], 1978; Akademia Pana Kleksa [Mr. Blot's Academy], 1990), Edward Leare (Dong with a Luminous Nose, 1961), Adam Bahdaj (Wakacje z duchami [Holidays with the Ghosts], 1962), Lev Kassil (Schwambrania, 1958), Julian Tuwim (Pan Maluśkiewicz i Wieloryb [Mr Miniscule and the Whale], 1956), Gustaw Morcinek (Roztomili ludkowie, 1956), Maria Terlikowska (Przygody kropli wody [Adventures of a Drop of Water], 1965), Hanna Ożagowska (Chłopak na opak [Topsy-turvy Boy], 1960), Czesław Janczarski (Wyprawa na śnieżną górę [Expedition to the Snowy Mountain], 1969), Tadeusz Kubiak (Fantasmagorie, 1961), Joanna Kulmowa (Stacja nigdy w życiu [Never-Ever Station], 1967), Olgierd Budrewicz (Zdumiewająca Warszawa [Amazing Warsaw], 1968), Maria Kossakowska and Janusz Galewicz (Kanapony, 1981).
Butenko was a renowned press illustrator. His satirical and humorous works were published mainly in foreign magazines, such as "The Sun" (UK), "The Independent" (UK), "La Vie Parisienne" (France), "Le Figaro" (France), "International Herald Tribune" (France), "Ludas Matyi" (Hungary), Élet és Irodolam" (Hungary), "Eikones" (Greece), "Berlingske" (Denmark), "Information" (Denmark), "Svenska Dagbladet" (Sweden). In Poland, his drawings appeared in such weekly magazines as "Wieś” [Countryside], "Szpilki” [Pins], "Przekrój” [Cross-section] and the monthly magazine "Polska” [Poland].
In 1958, he began cooperating with the Animated Film Studio in Bielsko-Biała where he designed artwork for several animated films (including Pan Maluśkiewicz i Wieloryb [Mr Miniscule and the Whale], 1958; Piotruś i zwierciadło [Little Peter and the Mirror], 1960; Gapa [Featherbrain], 1961). He also worked with the Se-Ma-For Studio of Small Film Forms (Barwy uczuć karcianych [The Colours of Playing Cards’ Feelings], 1962; Przygody Gapiszona [Scatterbrain’s Adventures], 1964), SYRENA Film Group (I ty zostaniesz Indianinem [You Can Be an Indian Too], 1962), the National Higher School of Theatre and Film in Łódź (Poranek Gapiszona [Scatterbrain’s Morning], 1961), KADR Film Studio (Niewiarygodne przygody Marka Piegusa [The Incredible Adventures of Marek Piegus], 1966), ILUZJON Film Studio (Mniejszy szuka dużego [The Smaller One Looking for the Big One], 1975) as well as the Short Film Studio (Gucio and Cezar, 1976–77).
In the late 1950s, he made his debut as a theatre set designer. He developed stage designs for the Puppet and Actor Theatre in Lublin (Pimpuś Sadełko, 1961), Arlekin Puppet Theatre in Łódź (Ferdynand the Magnificent, 1968; KrUlewna Śnieżka [Snow Wite], 2018), Lalka Theatre in Warsaw (Gucio and Cezar, 1971; Hup and hop, 1978; Panna Kreseczka [Little Miss Line], 2015), Lalka Theatre in Wałbrzych (Kogucik i strusiątko [Little Rooster and Little Ostrich], 1977), Drama Theatre in Elbląg (Czerwone pantofelki [Red Slippers], 1983), Baj Pomorski Theatre in Toruń (Toruń Legend, 2009), Television Theatre (The Steadfast Tin Soldier, 1959; Fantasmagorie, 1963) and for the Elderly Gentlemen's Cabaret (Evenings 14 and 15, 1965–1966). In the 1960s and 1970s, he designed numerous film posters, including those commissioned by the Film Rental Centre. He also prepared posters for events, advertisements, theatres as well as posters for films for which he created set designs.
Member of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers (1955–1982) and the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). From 1990 to 2011, he served as President of the "Świat Dziecka" Foundation, which he had co-founded.
In his private life, he was husband to Mirosława (née Żagilewicz) and father to Monika. He passed away on 14 October 2019, in Warsaw.
ed. Piotr Kułak
curator: Michał Rzecznik
collaboration: Paweł Płoski
design of stage elements: Elipsy Studio – Kamila Schinwelska, Marcin Gwiazdowski
framing of the works and help with the exhibition design: Leszek Mozolewski
help with exhibition preparations: Paulina Pilcicka, Aldona Tołysz
biography: dr Piotr Kułak
English translation: Łukasz Kotyński
Ukrainian translation: Iuliia Bystrycka
with thanks to Monika and Bogusław Grochowski for making the works of Bohdan Butenko available.
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