Bohdan Butenko

Bohdan Butenko was a television and theatre screenwriter, but also a graphic artist, illustrator, and author of books and comic books. He was the creator of the famous characters of Gapiszon, Kwapiszon, Gucio, and Cezar. He was born on 8th February 1931, in Bydgoszcz, where he lived until the outbreak of the Second World War.

During the German occupation of Poland, he moved to Warsaw, where he would later start education at the Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Sztuk Plastycznych (School of Fine Arts), which was later transformed into the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1955, Bohdan Butenko got a degree under the tutelage of Jan Marcin Szancer, a well know graphic artist and illustrator of the time.

Shortly after graduating from the academy, he was offered the position of an art editor at Nasza Księgarnia publishing house. It was precisely the place of publishing “Pan Maluśkiewicz i wieloryb” (Mr Miniscule and the whale), the first ever book for children illustrated by Bohdan Butenko, in 1956. His illustrations were featured in numerous books addressed to children and young adults, which necessitated working with many different publishing houses or magazines for young people, such as “Miś”, “Płomyczek”, or “Świat Młodych”, to name a few.

More than that, he was also involved in his private projects, which are nowadays considered “cult classics”. Bohdan Butenko received many awards for his work. He was the creator of such famous characters as Gucio (a hippo), Cezar (a dog), Gapiszon (a kindergarten pupil), and Kwapiszon (a scout). His artistic work was a manifestation of both simplicity and precision, and he used a single and distinct line to create all his characters. Among the most famous books and comic books created by Bohdan Butenko, there are “Pierwszy! Drugi!Trzeci!”,“Ptyś, czyli wiadukt nad chaszczami”, “KrUlewna Śnieżka” and a series of comic books showing the adventures of Kwapiszon and Gapiszon.

During his career, he was the author of many production designs, for example for the TV satirical cabaret Kabaret Starszych Panów (Elderly Gentlemen’s Cabaret) broadcast in the years 1958-1966. In 1958, he received an offer to create his own television programme addressed to children, in which he would show the process of drawing Gapiszon on glass sheets, “live”. In 1964, he got involved in producing stage design and a writing a script for the animated film series “Przygody Gapiszona”, which was broadcast as a bedtime show for children. He was also the author of a script for a bedtime show with puppets produced for Polish Television (TVP), based on his comic books with Gucio and Cezar.

Bohdan Butenko’s artistic portfolio also includes production designs for the puppet film Tańczące lalki (1967) by Jerzy Kotowski, and for the adventure film Mniejszy szuka dużego / The Small in Search of Tall, based on a novel written by Wiktor Woroszylski.

Bohdan Butenko was one of the co-founders of Fundacja Świat Dziecka, a foundation of which he was the president in the years 1990-2011. He was also a member of Związek Polskich Artystów Plastyków (ZPAP / The Association of Polish Artists and Designers) and of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).

During his long career, he designed puppets and sceneries for puppet theatres.

He died on 14th October, 2019.

Selected production designs

  • 1958 – “Pan Maluśkiewicz i wieloryb” / “Mr Miniscule and the whale”, dir. by Wacław Wajser
  • 1958-1966 – “Kabaret Starszych Panów” / “Elderly Gentlemen’s Cabaret” (TV show)
  • 1961 – “Poranek Gapiszona”, dir. by Jerzy Kotowski
  • 1962 – “W 10 minut dookoła świata”, dir. by Jerzy Kotowski
  • 1962 – “Barwy uczuć karcianych”, dir. by Bohdan Butenko
  • 1962 – “I ty zostaniesz Indianinem”, dir. by Konrad Nałęcki
  • 1964 – “Przygody Gapiszona” (TV series)
  • 1966 – “Świat w operze”, dir. by Jerzy Kotowski
  • 1967 – “Tańczące lalki”, dir. by Jerzy Kotowski
  • 1968 – “Gapiszon na stacji”, dir. by Jerzy Kotowski
  • 1975 – “Mniejszy szuka dużego” / “The Small in Search of Tall”, dir. by Konrad Nałęcki
  • 1976-1977 – “Gucio i Cezar” (TV series)

Selected Awards

A competition organised by Polskie Towarzystwo Wydawców Książek (The Association of Polish Book Publishers) under the name “The Most Beautiful Book of the Year” – awards and special mentions (in the years 1963, 1967, 1969, 1990, 2009, and 2013); Silver Goats (1979); Book of the Year award by the Polish section of IBBY (1990); The annual award granted by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage in the category of plastic arts; Special Prize of the “ABCXXI – Cała Polska Czyta Dzieciom” Foundation; Medal for the Creators and Friends of Children Books; the “Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians” Award for a mature and outstanding author with significant artistic or scientific achievements.