THE NATIONAL GALLERY
LANDSCAPES WITH ANTIQUITIES
from the Collection of the National Gallery
26 October 2017 – 18 February 2018
Opening: October 26th, Thursday, 6 pm
The Palace, Knyaz Alexander I Sq.
Under the Patronage of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria
The genre of landscapes with antiquities occupies a significant place in the oeuvre of the Bulgarian artists of the first half of the 20th century. Almost all landscapists have, to varying degrees, been fascinated by this theme, and for some, it has become a major and permanent motif. Each of them interprets the subjects individually; their styles may change, however, their sincere interest and solicitous, responsible attitude are preserved. The inevitable romantic element of this kind of motif, to which graphics and print reproduction respond, guarantees a wide public.
Landscapes with antiquities, although only sporadically, appeared in Bulgarian art as early as the period of the National Revival as an echo of the genre that had been broadly developed in European painting from the 17th century onwards; but its independent and widespread development began around the first decade of the 20th century, and flourished in the 1920s and 1930s.
The discovery and knowledge of Bulgarian antiquities by artists occurred in parallel with the creation of the Bulgarian institutions related to the study of artistic heritage and the culture of its preservation (late 19th–middle of the 20th century). In the exhibition, this scientific aspect is presented through explanatory texts and photographs that outline the most important stages of this activity—from the descriptions of artistic works and antiquities and steps taken to enhance their knowledge and protection by Bulgarian figures from the 17th to the 19th century, to research and the laws dating from the first decades of the 20th century.
While still insufficiently studied and systematised, Bulgarian antiquities as depicted by foreign artists such as Felix Kanitz, Joseph Oberbauer and Joseph Pieter, mostly bear documentary value. Our early, academically educated artists depicted picturesque ruins, imposing mosques, or sketched old houses in the classical traditions of the 19th century.
The first modern pictorial work marking the independent development of the genre in our country, and dating back to the time of discussion and adoption of the Law on Antiquities (1911), is THE RUINED ST SOPHIA by Nikola Petrov.
The exhibition presents the diversity and achievements of Bulgarian artists in this genre, and its development and peculiarities, not as an imitation of the European genre, but as a visual equivalent of the culture of preservation of our artistic heritage. Some 300 works have been prepared for displaay—oil paintings, drawings, aquarelles, pastels and printed graphics by the great Bulgarian artists from the first half of the 20th century, among them I. Mrkvička, A. Mitov, J. Věšín, I. Angelov, B. Mihailov, H. Stanchev, N. Mihailov, A. Bozhinov, S. Ivanov, H. Berberov, A. Mihov, N. Petrov, B. Denev, K. Shtarkelov, I. Milev, S. Badjov, N. Kozhuharov, P. Urumov, The Master, A. Mutafov, H. Kavarnaliev, N. Tanev, S. Skitnik, T. Lavrenov, M. Zhekov, D. Dechev, V. Stoilov, A. Milenkov, S. Benun, I. Hristov, P. Georgiev, and others. A large portion of the exhibition is devoted to the oeuvre of the Bulgarian graphic artists V. Zahariev, S. Velkov, P. Valkov, V. Staykov, and the special, exceptional heritage of P. Morozov, the most consistent representative of the genre.
Their works present significant Bulgarian antiquities, such as St Sophia, the Boyana Church, Rila Monastery, Tarnovo and other ancient National Revival towns, Sofia and Plovdiv, Ohrid and Kavala, Sozopol and Nesebar, Melnik and Balchik, Lovech and Troyan, Karlovo and Koprivshtitsa. The presentation of this genre would be imperfect without the remarkable series of famous monuments outside Bulgaria, such as the Tsarigrad [Constantinople] and Roman series by The Master, B. Denev’s Italian cycle, and the Athenian cycle of S. Skitnik.
The exhibition is dedicated to Andrey Protich. Portraits, texts, photographs and publications present the scientific heritage of the great Bulgarian art historian, with an emphasis on his contribution to the institutional and legislative building of the system for the preservation of the Bulgarian artistic heritage and, in particular, his huge role in the development of the National Gallery.
Space has also been devoted to the artist-restorers at the National Museum—M. Ustagenov, A. Belkovski, K. Yordanov, V. Nedkova and K. Tsonev—who, alongside their main work, have often depicted these sites, or characteristic Bulgarian motifs.
Simultaneously with the emergence of scientific research and the development of the museums, public interest developed and, over time, a thorough knowledge of antiquities became a sign of the culture and erudition of the Bulgarians.
Stimulated by a concern for the monuments, the works of Bulgarian artists also became a factor in cultivating attitudes towards antiquity and the culture of its preservation.
Doroteya Sokolova, curator of the exhibition, 0879 834 037