Vlaho Bukovac, distinguished Croatian painter
This web page was born thanks to the following
request of Mr Mark Nelson that I obtained in February 1998:
I am interested in any information
you might have on Vlaho Bukovac, particularly the painting "Isus
prijatelj malenih" (Paris 1888). I did a search for him and your art
website came up ... I'm interested in prints of this painting or any
info. you might have about him or the Gallery of Fine Arts in
Dubrovnik. I appreciate your help in this matter.
firstname.lastname@example.org or woodcraft@hotmail or maxmarket.com/nelson
This mail has been proceded to Mr Vjekoslav
Pavic, Zagreb, and here is the answer he prepared:
Dear Mr. Mark Nelson,
Relating to your request on Vlaho Bukovac we
have prepared some information found in the following literature:
- Vera Kruzic-Uchytil: Vlaho Bukovac - zivot i djelo (Vlaho
Bukovac -life and work), Matica Hrvatska, Zagreb, 1968 - based on
doctoral thesis presented at the Faculty of Arts in Zagreb on December
- Enciklopedija likovnih umjetnosti (Encyclopaedia of Fine
Arts), Vol.1, Jugoslavenski leksikografski zavod, Zagreb, 1959.
- Enciklopedija Leksikografskog zavoda, ( Encyclopaedia of
the Lexicographic Institute), Vol.1, Jugoslavenski leksikografski
Here are some data on his life.
Vlaho Bukovac was born in Cavtat, near Dubrovnik on July 4, 1855. His
real name was Vlaho Fagioni. His father was of the Italian
origin and mother was Croat from Dubrovnik. He showed inclination to
drawing in his early childhood but because of the poor material
condition of his family, he also had two sisters and a brother, he
could not continue his education. At the age of eleven his uncle took
him to the United States where he spent four hard years as his uncle
soon died. In 1871 he came back to Dubrovnik and embarked as a cadet on
a sailing-ship that sailed on regular line Istanbul- Odessa- Liverpool.
In 1873 he came to Latin America where he worked as a letter
drawer in a coach factory in Peru. In 1876 he returned to Cavtat. He
found a sponsor in the person of Medo Pucic, a poet who recommended him
to the archbishop Strossmayer, a very famous and influential Croatian
at that time. In 1877 he presented Strossmayer with the painting
"Turkinja u haremu" (Turkish woman in harem) where he used the surname
Bukovac for the first time. Thanks to Strossmayer's material support
and his own savings he came to Paris in 1877, where he entered the
École des Beaux Arts. He finished his education in 1880. His teacher
was A. Cabal who was a representative of the Paris academism.
Bukovac appeared in public as a painter on the Salon de Paris
in 1878. He exhibited and worked in Paris 16 years. In 1888 and 1891 he
spent longer periods in England working as a portrait painter. He went
through several phases in his artistic work which differ only in way
and techniques but not in comprehension and relation to painting. The
Paris period (1877-1893) was characterized by its artistic formation
from the academism to impressionism.
The Zagreb period (1894-1898) was the most active part of his
life. He brought fresh ideas to artistc colony of the town, but as he
was the only Croat artist educated in France he soon got confronted
with the advocates of the Vienna and Munich schools. He made famous
curtain for the National Theatre, Gundulic's Dream and Dubravka. The
Cavtat period (1898-1903) is characterized by his searching for new
means of expression and new coloristic solutions.
The Prague period (1903-1922) is characterized by portraits
where he concentrated more on coloristic aspects and less on the person
painted. He also worked as a professor at the academy. Bukovac died in
Prague on April 23, 1922.
His work comprises about 400 portraits and more than 150
other paintings and compositions.
With regard to his painting "Isus prijatelj malenih" it is
one of 32 paintings exhibited in the Paris period. It appeared on the
Salon de Paris in 1888. Bukovac was praised with the Mention Honorable
for it. The painting was probably ordered by Vicars because the rich
industrial Samson Fox bought it for the St. Robert's Catholic Church in
Harrogate near Leeds. The sources said that Fox had 18 paintings of
The description of the painting found in Mrs. Uchytil's book
says: "In exotic landscape of tropical vegetation there is Christ
dressed in white with the stretched hand dominating on the left side.
On the right there is uneasy group of apostles pushing a group of
people." This painting is new and absolutely queer theme in his work.
There is no religious motive there. The scene is situated in an
imaginary landscape that evoques the Orient. Bukovac said he painted it
in the sunny garden of his studio near Sacre Coeur in Rue de la
Chevaliere du Barre no.40. The Croatian critics say that the extreme
popularity of this work in the contemporary press is astonishing.
According to them the painting does not represent any achievement in
his work. It is possible that its popularity is due to its coloristic
pleasantness. They say that the weakest part is the figure of Christ
but the force of the author lies in vulgar figures of apostles and
beautiful details of mothers with children.
Documentation regarding this picture you can find in the
- Catalog of the Salon de Paris 1888, Paris, 1888, p.35
- Catalogue illustre Salon de 1888, Paris, 1888, p.8
The reviews of the picture can be found in the following
- Lafanestre G. : Le livre d'or du Salon de peinture 1888,
Vol IV, Paris, 1888, p.83
- La revue internationale, Roma, 1888, June 6
- Magazin des Demoiselles, Paris, 1888, June 6
- The Dramatic Review no.218, 1889, p.156
- The Trouth, April 27, 1889
- Vossische Zeitung, Berlin, June 13, 1888
- Europe artiste June 24, 1889
These materials could be found in the following institutions:
If you need more information on Vlaho Bukovac please contact the
- Bibliotheque Nationale de France,Paris
- Bibliotheque d'Art et d'Archeologie d'Universite de Paris
- Oesterreichische Nationl Bibliothek, Vienna
- Universitetni Knihovni, Prague
- Knihovni Akademie vytvarnich umeni, Prague
- Knihovni Akademie Ved, Prague
Miroslav Krleza Lexicographic Institute
Tel.: +385 1 4556 244 ; 4554 177
Fax: +385 1 434 948
The address of the Gallery of Fine Arts in Dubrovnik is:
Galerija likovnih umjetnosti
Frana Supila 23
Tel.: +385 20 421 210
Many thanks to Mr Nelson and to Mr Pavic!
As we can see, tamburitza play had a great social role, in which both men and women actively participated.
Vlaho Bukovac: Cavtat tamburitza orchestra (Cavtat is a small, very nice Croatian town near Dubrovnik), arround 1900.
All the persons appearing on the photo are known. This painting (of large dimensions)
is kept in the Baltazar Bogisic Museum in Cavtat.
A detail from the above photo, the left part.
Vlaho Bukovac is sitting on the right, playing tamburitza. On the left are his three children,
and just above his forhead is his wife, also playing tamburitza.
Back to Croatia - an
overview of its History, Culture and Science