About Bulgaria - ICN

Fine Arts
The Bulgarian lands are an inexhaustible treasure-trove of artistic works. Part of these are still hidden in the earth, but others, which are already in the museums, drive us back thousands of years to the culture of one of the oldest ancient European civilizations. The ceramic pots and the clay idol-plastic works, found in prehistoric necropolis and hamlet mounts near the villages of Karanovo and Hotnitsa (9th-7th millenium B.C.), the exceptional gold finds of the Eneolithic necropolis near Varna (5th millenium B.C.), known as the "oldest gold of Europe", the unique rock-drawings in the Magura cave (3rd millenium B.C.) come before Thracian art which develops at the end of the Bronze and during the Iron Ages. The fine frescoes in the Kazanluk Tomb (4th-3rd centuries B.C.), the rich in relief decoration golden and silver pots of the treasures of Panagyurishte (4th-3rd centuries B.C.) and Rogozen (5th-4th centuries B.C.) are among the most well-known, dating from that period, while Roman and early Christian art is preserved in numerous mosaics and sculptures. During the time of the First Bulgarian Kingdom (681-1018) ceramics (Preslav ceramics), toreutics, stone plastics (palace ensembles in Pliska and Preslav) are developed. The Madara Horseman rock bas-relief (8th C.) is unique and the only one in Europe. With the conversion of the Bulgarians to Christianity the art of painting is brought in from Byzantium, the impact of which on religious art in the Bulgarian lands (frescoes, found in the bone-vault of the Bachkovo monastery) is very strong. During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom (1186-1396), when Veliko Turnovo is the capital, the Bulgarian art reaches its efflorescence. The frescoes in the rock churches near the village of Ivanovo (12th-13th centuries) are remarkable for their masterly purity of line, bright colours and expressiveness of images.
The highest artistic achievements are the unique frescoes in the Boyana Church (1259) where the portrait psychological approach to images is introduced for the first time. The Bulgarian icon painters establish a local tradition with expressed Slavonic characterization of canonical personage. Miniature for decoration of court manuscripts (Manasses Chronicle, the Gospel of Ivan-Aleksandur, Tomich Psalter) develops. During the first years of Ottoman rule fine art preserves its typical Bulgarian traits. Icon painting and mural painting in the 17th-18th centuries are under the influence of the Athonite painting, though frequently ascetic and primitive.

During the Bulgarian National Revival an upsurge in arts sets in. Artistic schools (centres) are soon differentiated in Tryavna, Samokov, Bansko and elsewhere and their masters - artists, carvers, master-builders, work all over the country. Wonderful examples of wall-paintings and wood-carved decorations can still be found in the monasteries of Bachkovo, Preobrazhenie, Rozhen. One of the most imposing is the Rila Monastery which manages to preserve the Bulgarian culture in the years under Ottoman yoke. One of the first artists to take up secular art is Zahariy Zograf (1810-1855). Secular art is established through the works of the first Bulgarian artists who acquired academic education abroad - Stanislav Dospevski, Nikolai Pavlovich, Hristo Tsokev and others.

Towards the end of 19th and the beginning of the 20th C. genre and style variety is introduced in the Bulgarian art. The realistic tradition of the National Revival is preserved, but at the same time the influence of impressionism, post-impressionism and expressionism is felt. Vladimir Dimitrov-Maistora, Tsanko Lavrenov, Zlatyo Boyadzhiev, Stoyan Venev, who represent the "National Art" movement, strive at the accomplishment of a national style.

After the 60-ies one can trace the formation of numerous and various trends, the representatives of which find their place not only on a national scale, but in the development of tendencies in the world art: Dimitur Kirov, Yoan Leviev, Encho Pironkov, Dimitur Kazakov, Ivan Kirkov, Svetlin Rousev, Dechko Ouzounov, Vezhdi Rashidov and others. One can not only see, but purchase as well works of contemporary Bulgarian artists in the numerous state-owned and private art galleries. Lots of brilliant examples of Bulgarian art can be found in well-known art galleries abroad side by side with the works of world famous authors.