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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Neglected old masters

There are two Bulgarian painters I consider hugely neglected and underrated – Marin Ustagenov (1872-1937) and Nicolai Boiadjiev (1904-1963).
Both were superb painters of the human body – as I saw for myself for one of them when, exactly 2 years ago, Sofia’s City Art Gallery organised the first ever exhibition of Boiadjiev’s paintings –

In 1958 he had been expelled from the Union of Bulgarian artists for his refusal to work on prescribed themes and focussed instead on drawing. His work never seems to come on the market.
The painting on the left is Boiadjiev's "Righteous Job"

Until yesterday I had been able to view any of Ustagenov’s paintings in the flesh – only in a great book which was published here in 2005. The photo is of one of the reproductions in the book.

He had been a war artist during the Balkan and First World Wars; studied at Munich and became one of the first Bulgarian restorers. 
He participated in the restoration of Boyana Church and Monastery Zemen and was still working on this at his death. After the 1944 Communist takeover he was, presumably because of his religious themes, declared an enemy of the people; his heirs harassed ; and the study of his work removed from the curriculum at the Academy of Arts – "airbrushed from history".
But the Loran Gallery (Oborishte 16 in the Embassy area of Sofia) has at last done him proud – with an exhibition (which ends in the middle of February). And, also for the first time they have enabled us to see many of his paintings online
Congratulations Loran Gallery – about which I have blogged before 

People here tell me that a lot of archival material on Bulgarian artists has been lost. I'm not quite sure what they mean about this. Some painters lost a lot of their artwork during the 2nd World War - Vesselin Tomas, for example, through not being allowed by Germany to take them back home and others through allied bombing of Sofia. But if we mean documentation of lives and friendships we do have artists such as the great caricaturist Ilyia Beshkov who produced diaries with drawings....  An issue for further exploration with some art historians here perhaps....

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