At the end of June, the island of Šolta hosted a special manifestation in honour of their most famous son, Croatian naive artist Eugen Buktenica, in a festival known as the Days of Eugen Buktenica.
The goal of the festival is to develop the island and position itself as a centre for naive art. And Eugen Buktenica, the preeminent Dalmatian naive artist, plays a central role.
The Eugen Buktenica naive art festival is the result of several years' work between the local self-government and the respective naive art associations from both coastal and continental Croatia.
Eugen Buktenica’s art developed and flourished in parallel with the other prolific artists from Hlebine in Koprivnica-Križevci County, such as Croatia’s most famous naive artist, Ivan Generalić. Together they inspired the widespread popularity of Croatian naive art and made it a recognizable brand around the world.
A special contribution to this festival was provided by the contemporary naive artist, Vicko Buktenica - Eugen’s nephew. Vicko now carries on the tradition of Dalmatia’s unique naive style and helps to pass on his knowledge and expertise through workshops, exhibitions, and humanitarian actions; while at the same time nurturing the connections between Croatia’s main two centres of naive art.
"We Dalmatians, with our base here on the island of Solta, began to cooperate with painters from the Hlebine school because it was precisely what my uncle Eugene Butktenica wanted,” explained Vicko Buktenica, “but unfortunately, he didn't live long enough to see his dream fulfilled.
“Now we collaborate in a lot of projects designed to educate young people and hopefully inspire new generations of artists to take up the naive style,” he continued.
Naive art came into Vicko’s life by accident, he said. “Since I am the nephew of Eugene Buktenica, he chose to leave me his estate when he died. And in his will, he instructed me to turn his house into a museum and gallery. So while I was fulfilling my uncle’s wish to build up the gallery, I discovered that I also knew how to paint. I think that was probably the key moment when I knew I wanted to be an artist.”
The president of the Hlebine association, Zlatko Kolarek, said they were particularly pleased to be able to participate in the festival and pay tribute to Buktenica.
“We produced one of the greatest and most influential naive painters, Ivan Generalić,” said Kolarek, “while here on Šolta, Eugen Buktenica has had the same impact.”
During the Eugene Buktenica art festival, local islanders, stakeholders in tourism and culture, schoolchildren and young people, participate in this proud and growing tradition, which they see as a means to promote Šolta around the world.
Toni Miloš, from the Martinis Marchi Heritage Hotel on Šolta, believes the festival is growing in perfect symbiosis with the local economy. He said the joint collaboration of business and the festival organizers is helping to paint a better picture of the island to the outside world.
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