Painting Collection (1944- 1989), Museum Collection of the National Academy of Art

Exhibition presenting the Painting Collection (1944- 1989) within the Museum Collection of the National Academy of Art
8 April – 14 May 2021
VERNISSAGE on 8 April (Thursday), 4:00pm – 7:00pm

Milena Balcheva-Bozhkova, curator of the Museum Collection

This exposition is part of the Museum Collection exhibition programme at the National Academy of Art, whose collections are periodically exhibited. It presents educational painting studies of Academy graduates during the period from the mid-'40s to the end of the '80s of the last century, most of which have not been exhibited and published so far.

Among the presented artists are Christo Javacheff-Christo, Dobri Dobrev, Svetlin Russev, Dimitar (Diddi) Arnaudov, Mito Ganovski, Bisera Dzheneva-Prahova, Ivan Vukadinov, Stoyan Domuschiev, Stefan Yanev, Todor Terziev, Andrey Daniel, Toma Varbanov, Nikolay Drara Valentin Kolev, Milko Bozhkov, Mimi Dobreva, Bozhidar Boyadzhiev, Yasharali Tahirov, Edmond Demirdzhian, Vladimir Penev, Dimitar Cholakov, Evgenia Bozadjieva, Ivaylo Mirchev, Desislava Mincheva, Plamen Valchev, Anton Staykov, Rumen Budev, Boris Serginov, Elena Panayotova, Svetozar Benchev, Nikolay Yanakiev, Valyo Chenkov, Kiril Bozhkov, Atanas Atanasov and some other.

Due to the lack of its own exhibition space, one of the goals of the National Academy of Art in recent years is gradually documenting of the collections in its Museum Collection in separate catalogue editions. The main goal of releasing such thematic editions is the promotion of little known, inaccessible as information as of the present moment, facts from the history of the higher educational institution of arts and of the Bulgarian artistic life from the different periods.

The unifying principle in the Painting Collection (1944- 1989) within the Museum Collection is the wide range of study assignments of more than one generation of artists who studied in the ateliers at the Academy of Arts. Its significance today is determined not only by presenting some of the excellent achievements in the field of the academic painting study; rather by the localisation of a large number of diverse educational assignments of artists differing in their views and plastic approach, appearing as a kind of document of the time. In a manner similar to that of the painting collection from the period before 1944, the one from the second half of the last century follows the logic of formation of identical museum collections at the art academies round the world. Today, with its more than two hundred and fifty works stored in the museum depot, it is a constant aid in the process of reconstructing the history of the formal art education in our country after the socio-political changes in 1944.

Having been collected for decades, the Painting Collection (1944-1989) is far from having only the character of a collection that contains the most representative educational assignments of the respective period. This aspect is complemented by the overall characteristics and originality of the Museum Collection of the National Academy of Art as one of the oldest collections in our country, representing in its essence an eclectic combination of paintings and graphic works, prints and works of the applied arts. The donations to the Painting Fund, made in the second half of the last century by a number of lecturers and established freelance artists, further enrich its overall character in our general artistic development.

This catalogue is the sixth edition in the scientific series of the Museum Collection. Due to its limited volume, the material included presents a carefully made selection of different in nature paintings (educational assignments and works on free topics) mainly of graduates and lecturers from the National Academy of Art. The possibility of publishing the collection of paintings from the period under consideration led to its detailed study and to the correction of a number of inaccuracies regarding the works’ dating, origin and correct attribution. The studied material, arranged on a chronological principle in this edition, allows for retracing the main tendencies in the development of art in Bulgaria in the period from 1944 to the end of the '80s of the last century.

Prof. D. Sc. Chavdar Popov

The exhibition presents the art collection of the National Academy of Art - Painting Fund and covers the period from 1944 to 1989. The main array of works comprises educational assignments and to a lesser extent donations.

The collection testifies to the complex processes of evolution of the studies and compositions developed in the bosom of the Academy. Based on the available examples from the field of ‘free creativity’ - however fragmentary they may be - we could judge of the development of painted art in our country from the phase of dogmatic social realism to the relative liberalisation at the end of the period.

The classification of the material – head study, nude study, figure study, composition, diploma works, still life, landscape, interior, portrait and self-portrait, competition works – basically reflects the practical painting classes at the Academy.

To the extent possible, the exposition follows the accepted periodisation: the end of the '40s - the first half of the '50s; the end of the '50s - '60s; the '70s and the '80s. Like a red thread through the period runs the constant tendency to gradual increase in the personal characteristics and to pushing out and eliminating the normative structure-determining factors valid in the past.

In the late '40s and early '50s, the 'classic' nudes dominate - traditional assignments characterised by typical for the academism accurate drawing, tonal gradations and light-and-shadow modelling, as well as a strong emphasis on rendering the peculiarities of nature. Within the framework of the head study, the most talented students manage to perform psychological analysis recreated through a variety of drawing techniques and rich plastic gradations.

In the '60s, nudes acquire a more prominent monumentality of the figurative suggestion. The forms are constructed in a generalised, solid way, the spatial foreshortening is non-standard and as a rule avoids the conventional solutions of the previous period. Figural compositions also change quite significantly. The literal nature-resemblance and the storyline are missing. In the period, as a rule topical are geometrization and increased decorativism, as well as emphatic attention to purely plastic values.

In the '70s, we can see the development of painted art within a relatively broad genre range. To a great extent the differences between head study and portrait are largely erased. The typology of nudes is diversified. Students strive to saturate the figure with increased eloquentness of the plastic expression, which allows itself a slight or more decisive departure from nature in the name of the autonomous influence of the colour, compositional solution and form. Integration between the different genres is much bolder and freer than before.

The expansion into a wider range of typological varieties of the paintings fund at the end of the '80s to a great extent can be probably attributed to the meanwhile increased share of donations that fill up the collection.

A number of the works are presented for the first time. We hope they will arouse the interest of the students, lecturers, professionals and the general public as well.



Exhibition organiser: St. Pimen Zografsky and National Academy of Art Foundation
Project team: Dr. Milena Balcheva-Bozhkova (project manager and curator of the Museum Collection of the National Academy of Art), Prof. Dr. Sc. Chavdar Popov, Dr. Rossen Toshev, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Stefan Belishky, Sylvia Miloslavova, Anton Ivanov, Didi Spasova