Short history - House Bukovac

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The Bukovac House is the birthplace and museum of the Croatian painter Vlaho Bukovac (Cavtat 1855 – Prague 1922), one of the most prominent Craotain painters and founder of modern Croatian painting. During his cosmopolitan life, conducted in America and Europe, Bukovac often returned home, where he left much of his work.

Bukovac’s childhood home is a typical urban house from the turn of the eighteenth century, a stone structure of two floors with a small garden on the side of the south façade and a spacious back garden on its north. The house, located on one of the little streets that leads from the Cavtat shore towards Prijeko Street, has its own history and “prehistory” – it has been continuously inhabited since ancient times.

The house was bought by the painter’s grandfather, Giuseppe Fagioni, a seaman who married a local girl and took up permanent residence in the early 19th century Cavtat. Bukovac’s father made additions to the house, as did Bukovac himself.

The house consists of two originally separate units. The west wing had only one story until 1898, when Vlaho Bukovac built another level above it, organizing the top floor as his atelier.

Shortly after Bukovac’s death in 1922, his daughters transformed the atelier into an exhibition space open to visitors. In the middle of the 1960’s, the house was bought by the Yugoslavian Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1976, it was ceded to what was then the municipality of Dubrovnik, which entrusted the administration of the Bukovac House to the Art Gallery of Dubrovnik. As the ground floor was used by the orchestra “Limena glazba Cavtat,” only the top floor functioned as a museum. The entrance to the museum was through an already-existing bridge to the atelier in the back garden.

The remains of the wall paintings came to light during the course of the initial restoration work on the Bukovac House. In 1998, exploratory tests were carried out which confirmed the existence of tempera painting on the wall of the east wing of the house. The cleaning of the additional simply painted walls began in 2003, as did the restoration of the original paintings.

While he was sixteen, Vlaho as a present to his father, decorated the eastern part of the house with murals. He chose a schematic mural. Decorative friezes along with framed painting fields cover the lower parts of the walls. The fields are painted with depictions of various animals, some of which are exotic for that time and this place, such as anteaters, crocodiles, rhinos, lyrebirds, and also with images of landscapes with occasional lineary indicated fields and decorative curly interventions at the edges. Ceilings are painted in the same manner, usually bordered by decorative elements. The exception is the ground-floor room with medallions. It depicts the first known painter's self-portrait and the semi-figures of three female characters. In the so called "blue room" the frieze features balustrades with plant and animal motifs, while the upper walls are filled with classical elements of columns between which there are allegorical figures on pedestals. The ceiling is decorated by a central medallion with a female figure, around which a repetitive floral motif covers the entire remaining surface of the ceiling.

The Bukovac House, as part of the Museums and Galleries of Konavle, was reopened to the public in 2004.

The permanent collection is made up of Bukovac’s works from all the phases of his oeuvre. Portraits and paintings of an intimate nature are exhibited in the salon on the first floor. The artist’s development and changes in style can be followed in the self-portraits from 1877 to one painted in 1921, only five months before his death. In the atelier, all of his important artistic phases are exhibited: Paris, Zagreb, Cavtat and finally Prague. A selection of furniture and personal objects are dispersed throughout the other spaces of the house with an eye toward the optimal viewing of the wall paintings.

The museum is open to all researchers since it holds more than 200 paintings, drawings, sketches, private letters, a collection of photographs, autobiography manuscript „My life“ from 1918 etc. All of these items are invaluable information for scientific works on the theme of Bukovac's life and work.

Museums and galleries of Konavle consist of the:

Konavle County Museum, House Bukovac, Department of Archaeology and Račić Mausoleum.

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