The "Bulgarian National Revival Secular Painting” Exhibition presents the natural and dynamic development of the artistic processes from the 40s to the 80s of the XIX century. They are characterized by the transition from post-Byzantine art to genre painting.
The exhibition includes works by masters who created icons and made the first steps in following the European trends in painting in the XIX century. The portraits and canvases of historical and every day life plots show the main directions in the work of the National Revival artists. Among those artists are Zahari Zograph, Ivan Dospevski and Nikola Obrazopisov, all of whom were trained in the Samokov Painting School.
The portraits by Zahari Zograph were the earliest and most vivid expression of the beginning of the great change in painting, which was to happen in the second half of the XIX century. The portrait created by his nephew, Ivan Dospevski, was the obvious result of the training received in the family workshop in Samokov and of the new approaches, among which drawing by nature, whose basis was laid by Zahari Zograph. “Village dance from Samokov district” by Nicola Obrazopisov was one of the first paintings with an every day life plot. It made a strong impression during the Plovdiv Fair in 1892 and was purchased for the collection of the National Museum.
In the mid-XIX century, Zahari Zograph’s nephew Stanislav Dospevski, Hristo Tsokev from Gabrovo, Nikolay Pavlovich from Svishtov, and Dimitar Dobrovich from Sliven studied painting in higher art schools in Russia, Austria, Germany and Italy. There, they learnt the principles of academic Classicism and Romanticism. At the same time, the portraits they created remained deeply rooted in the mentality of the Bulgarians. The historical topics were of great interest for Nikolay Pavlovich and revealed his patriotic devotion to medieval Bulgarian history. In ideological terms, they followed the European Neo-Romanticism trends of the XIX century towards the resurrection of the historical past.
An integral part of the overall National Revival development in Bulgaria towards the accession to the European artistic processes of the Romanticism and realism in the second half of the XIX century were the portraits by Dimitar Dobrovich and Georgi Danchov. The former graduated the Art Academy in Rome, and the latter studied in the graphic studio of Isarian, an Armenian, in Istanbul. Both artists - revolutionaries and painters at heart and by vocation, created some of the most insightful portraits in Bulgarian National Revival painting.