Zlatko Bourek (1929 – 2018) was a Croatian sculptor, painter, director, scenographer, costume designer, puppet designer, author of animated and feature films, recipient of the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award, and a member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

He was born in Slavonska Požega on September 4, 1929.

He attended elementary and high school in Osijek. In 1955, he graduated in painting and sculpture at the Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb under professor Kosta Angeli Radovani.

In 1955, he exhibited his works in the field of applied arts: a silver relief and a poster, and the following year a silverware set and a sculpture in wood with copper applications entitled Banjoglav. As part of SIO (Studio for Industrial Design), he made an indoor sculpture, which was exhibited at the Milan Triennial in 1957. In 1976, he designed the interior of the bistro “Badanj” in the tourist resort Babin Kuk in Dubrovnik.

He started doing graphic works in 1959, and in 1961 he started exhibiting paintings that bear the hallmarks of his artistic language and feature grotesque humour and surrealist sensibility accompanied by the element of folklore.

He had solo exhibitions in Duisburg in 1969 (Nos Gallery); New York in 1969/70 (Museum of Modern Art, Film Department); Dubrovnik in 1982 (Sebastijan Gallery); Varaždin in 1998 (Zlatni ajngel gallery); Zagreb in 2002 (Art Pavillion); Split in 2010 (Meštrović Gallery); Zagreb in 2011 (Forum Gallery); Požega in 2021 (City Museum); Zagreb in 2012 (HAZU Graphics Cabinet) and again in 2014 (Glyptotheque HAZU). From 1955 onwards, he participated in numerous group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad.

He started his career in animated film by drawing backgrounds. His first success was Cowboy Jimmy (1957), followed by Happy End (1958), The Inspector Returns Home (Inspektor se vratio kući) and At the Photographer’s Studio (Kod fotografa, 1959). From 1960 onwards, he started making animated films based on his own scripts, for example: The Blacksmith’s Apprentice (Kovačev šegrt), Far Away, I Saw Mist and Mud (I videl sam daljine meglene i katne), Dancing Songs (Bećarac), Captain Arbanas Marko (Kapetan Arbanas Marko), The Cat (Mačka), Education (Školovanje), Lunch (Ručak). In 2014, together with Pavao Štalter he completed the animated film Wiener Blut.

He worked as the director and script writer on three feature films: Circus Rex, The Little Red Riding Hood (Crvenkapica) and Ventriloquist (Ventrilokvist).

As a set and costume designer, he debuted at the Gavella Drama Theatre in Zagreb in 1960 working on The Butcher of Abbeville (Mesar iz Abevilla) and Master Pathelin (Meštar Pathelin).

Starting from 1971, he often worked as a set and costume designer in West German theatres (Shaffer: Black Comedy; Prokofjev: The Tale of the Stone Flower, Romeo and Juliet, Peter and the Woolf, Cinderella; Stravinsky: Pulcinella, The Firebird; Delibes: Coppelia; Čajkovski: Nutcracker).

In 1988, he became a full-time member of the Hans Wurst Nachfaren Theatre in Berlin, where he successfully put on four Chekhov’s single-act plays, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and Rigoletto (based on the libretto of the eponymous opera).

For the Dubrovnik Summer Festival in 1977, he directed Salih Isaac’s puppet farce Orlando maleroso inspired by the Dubrovnik tradition and Japanese Bunraku theatre. That play marked the beginning of the revival of puppet theatre in Croatia. In 1982, Bourek’s Hamlet (Shakespeare-Stoppard), performed by the &TD Theatre, was a great success and would later be performed at some of the world’s biggest theatre festivals. In 1983, in collaboration with Joško Juvančić, he directed the puppet play The Miser / Skup (M. Držić).

In 1992, he directed the medieval farce Master Pathelin (Meštar Pathelin) at ZMK; in 1995, produced by the theatrical troupe David and ZMK, he designed the puppets and directed The Return of the Soldier / Povratak vojaka (Bourek-Paljetak); and in 1998, he won the Marul Award for best direction at Marulić Days in Split for Bećarac (Bourek-Ivić). He also adapted, directed and designed the set for Molliere’s The Hypochondriac (Umišljeni bolesnik) at the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre, which was performed at Gavella Drama Theatre in Zagreb a year later. In 2001, he designed the set and directed the play Dibuk (A. Rapapport) at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb.

In 2002, he became an associate member of the Department of Fine Arts of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU), and in 2010 he was elected a full-time member.

During his career he won numerous awards, including the City of Zagreb Award for his animated film Far Away, I Saw Mist and Mud based on Miroslav Krleža’s Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh (1965), the first two prizes at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (in 1968 for Captain Arbanas Marko and in 1972 for The Cat), the first prize at the 4th Zagreb Exhibit of Yugoslav Drawings, two annual Vladimir Nazor Awards (1972 and 1982), and the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.