I realise that those who alight on this blog may not share my passion for painting – let alone Bulgarian works. I thought of relegating the series I have started on that subject to the lower half of each post – but that would add considerably to the length of what are clearly already too verbose posts. The answer seems to be alternate posts – so, be warned, this is an exclusive painting post. If you're really into painting - particularly Realist - then check out the booklet I published in May 2012
Boris Angelushev (1902-1966) trained and worked in Berlin from the early 1920s for more than a decade (returning to Bulgaria only in 1935) and was clearly influenced by the revolutionary events taking place then - and by the powerful graphics of Kathe Kollwitz of whom I have always been very fond.
A typical agitprop sketch of his headed the recent post about Romanian DNA and more of his work can be seen here. When I was in Sofia in January I was lucky enough to come across a large book which seemed to contain every single one of his works. Even although it’s all in Bulgarian, I considered it a bargain at 22 euros. I actually have a sketchbook I also bought then in the tiny eccentric gallery I blogged about at the time. It's by an unknown artist – my knowledgeable Bulgarian friends agree that it’s quality work from the mid century and I have just realised it could be Angelushev’s since the old sketchbook carries an embossed Romanian-German title –“Album de schite-Skizzenbuch” – and he worked in both Romania and Germany.
I have the sense that Bulgarian painters are more numerous (proportionately) than British. I don’t pretend to know a great deal about British art (more about Scottish – the Glasgow Boys; the Colourists etc) – so Amazon delivered this week a book (A Crisis of Brilliance) about a group of 5 famous English painters of the early 20th century – Dora Carrington, Merk Getler, Paul Nash, Richard Nevinson and Stanley Spencer (I had only heard of the first and last). Certainly I could make a list of no more than 20 UK painters of the last 100 years – whereas my list of Bulgarian painters is almost at the 150 mark. And one of the difficulties about compiling the list is that quite a few Bulgarian painters share a family name – some are related (eg Dobre Dobrev senior and Junior) – but most are not. And this seems to be particularly true of names like Georgiev (3 in my list) and Ivanov (five!) The next two listings share an appropriate name for that part of the world -
Nenko Balkanski was born in Kazanluk in 1907, lived until he was 70 and is the more prestigious of the two. He graduated from the National Art Gallery in 1930 and then went to study in Germany, France and later Italy He seems to have been a modest man and his portrayals of family life (above) were well regarded by the socialist authorities who used his work on stamps. I saw a superb small portrait of a woman by him in the Konus Gallery in Sofia for about 1,400 euros – brought especially for my edification. A large still life of his is priced at 3,000 euros in this week’s Viktoria Gallery auction.
The Gallery in Kazanluk has some of his art and others who painted there and seems to be well worth a visit. His grandson is also a painter.
Pencho Balkanski was born a year later in the Troyan area, lived until 1985 and came to painting only after he had established himself as a photographer. A 50x40 of his is going for 1,200 euros at the auction.