BENCHO OBRESHKOV (1899–1970)
THE PEOPLE’S UPRISING OF 9 SEPTEMBER 1944,
oil on canvas, 72 x 92 cm
National Gallery, Inv. No. IV–4077
The painting entered the collection on 17.12.2012
from the National Endowment Fund ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’
9 September 1944 is one of the most significant and crucial dates in the recent history of Bulgaria. In its different periods, Bulgarian historiography described the event as the ‘People’s Uprising’ or the ‘Socialist Revolution’, whereas after 10 November 1989, it was seen as a ‘coup d’état’. On the eve of 9 September 1944, a forcible change in the state administration was carried out, the government of Konstantin Muraviev was overthrown, and the Fatherland Front government came to power. The entry of the Third Ukrainian Front of the Red Army into the country played a significant role in the event. After this date, a major political, economic, and social change in Bulgarian society took place. The Socialist form of state governance continued until 10 November 1989.
Among the ideological forms of art, the events of 9 September 1944 were subjected to genuine mythologisation. For a period of nearly forty-five years, huge numbers of works of painting, graphic art, sculpture, monumental and decorative arts, applied graphic arts, etc., were created. Dozens of exhibitions were organised and held, devoted to various events and aspects of the ‘revolutionary theme’. Propaganda art forms were crucial and received special attention on behalf of both the ideological apparatus of the Party and the artists.
In his monographic study, Bencho Obreshkov, Sofia, 1982, the art critic and researcher Kiril Krastev wrote: Bencho Obreshkov actively involved himself in the revolutionary theme of the early Socialist epoch, too. Already in the period 1944–1945, he painted a large composition—the Ninth of September People’s Uprising in Sofia—against the background of buildings destroyed by the bombing. The insurgent multitude is led by a partisan woman with a banner, similar to the female figure in the famous painting by Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People. In Obreshkov’s painting, the revolutionary nerve is expressed through a long marching stride, raised fists, and frozen cries that distort the faces of the multitude, as well as through contrasting chiaroscuros. The concept, during that epoch, of Socialist Realism as an academic method of drawing has a certain, albeit hesitant influence on Obreshkov’s pictorial technique.