Bohdan Butenko (1931-2019) – one of the best known and most successful Polish graphic artists – illustrator, creator of posters, scenography, satirical drawings, and films. The first comic strips he created in his high school notebooks. Since then, a humorous dialogue with the surrounding reality and reality of the text entertains both younger and older readers. The artist graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts (Warsaw, 1955), and did his diploma thesis in the studio of Jan Marcin Szancer. The diploma work, illustrations for a book titled “A Tale of a Tula Mankout and a Steel Flea” (author: Mikołaj Leskow), was the first of over 200 books he designed. He collaborated with many publishers and magazines for children and teenagers in Poland, and his most famous “child”, Gapiszon, gained international fame. Gapiszon was also a star of the first Polish animated film co-authored by Butenko. His artistic expression reached far beyond illustration and comics and included scenic design, puppets, and posters. It went also far beyond Polish borders with numerous collaborations in Hungary, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey, and Japan among others.

A large dose of humor, a simple line, and a break with the conventional approach became the hallmarks of his work, and the avant-garde solutions proposed by Butenko entered the canon of the so-called Polish School of Illustration. Butenko is called the master of illustration for a reason – he always designed entire books, focusing on the details from a cover to the very last page, typography, bookbinding, never neglecting any aspect of creation. He liked to compare the process of book creation to sweater knitting – one change of concept in the middle may destroy the whole work. His illustrations enter active dialog with the text, drawing the reader into a play. The characters “run away” from the pages, the graphics are dynamic. At the same time, this apparent chaos and a simple line create a consistent, conscious aesthetic, so typical for his style.

Selected national awards:

  • 1963, 1967, 1969, 1988, 1990, 2009, 2013 – awards and distinctions in the by Polish Association of Book Publishers (Most Beautiful Book of the Year)
  • 1979 – Srebrne Koziołki (“Good morning!”)
  • 1979 – Srebrne Koziołki (“The Story of One Film”)
  • 1990 – Book of the Year by PS IBBY (“About Felek, Żbik and Mamutek”)
  • 2003 – BESTSELLERek (“Grandma Brygida’s crazy journey to Krakow”)

Selected international awards:

  • 1965 – IBA Award (Leipzig) – Fig. and op. the book “The Dong with a Luminous Nose” by E. Lear
  • 1970 – 2nd prize at the ICC (Moscow) – il. to the book “Ziemia” by W. Zonna
  • 1971 – IBA Award (Leipzig) – Fig. and op. the book “Ready, Steady, Rain!” by L. Górski
  • 1976 – Premio Europeo (Padua) – il. books “Marianne’s Life, or History of France” by J. Duche
  • 1977 – IBA Award (Leipzig) for Fig. and op. books “Fire!” by J. Brzechwa
  • 2003 – IMAGE Award (Istanbul) for il. to the book “The Incomparable Nasreddin” by I. Shah

He also received awards for lifetime achievement:

  • 1974 – Award of the Prime Minister
  • 1976 – Medal of the National Education Commission
  • 1981 – Medal for the Creators and Friends of the Book for Children
  • 2003 – PS IBBY nomination for the Swedish Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award
  • 2004 – PS IBBY Medal
  • 2005 – nomination for the Award of the President of the Republic of Poland “Sztuka Młodym”
  • 2005 – PS IBBY nomination for the Swedish Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award
  • 2006 – “Pegazik” award at the Poznań Trade Fair Meetings
  • 2006 – Annual Award of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage
  • 2009 – “Gulliver in the land of Liliputów” – for a mature and outstanding artist with significant artistic or scientific achievements
  • 2011 – Special Award of the Foundation “ABCXXI – All of Poland Reads to Children”
  • 2011 – Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta
  • 2016 – The Big Eric

He was a Knight of the Order of the Smile (2012).