The collection of graphics presents the high professional level of our national school of graphics in its chronological development. It covers a period of more than a century and a half–staring with Renaissance prints from the 19th century, also referred to as paper icons up to contemporary artists, creating in the area of post-conceptual art.
The name GRAPHICS originates from the Greek word “graphos”- write, draw. Graphics is a kind of fine art, including the drawing and works of art printed with a plate
/board, stone, metal/ – engravings, prints, lithography based on the drawing however having specific ways of creating and means of expression as well as possibilities. Graphics includes digital technologies of images, which apart from the means of expression of the drawing make use of other media such as photography. The very printed works are called graphics. Usually they are black and white but there are also created color engravings making use of etching, aquatint, lithography, print, serigraphy, xylography etc.
According to its contents and purpose graphics is divided into fine and applied graphics. To fine graphics refer works of independent artistic significance - graphic pictures not directly involved with a certain literary text, which do not have a definite practical purpose.
Graphics in Bulgaria has not originated as an independent kind of art. It has developed since the Renaissance, closely connected with the development of book-printing: “Chasoslovets” 1566, “Prayer-book” 1570 by Yakov Kraykov, “Abagar” 1651 by Philip Stanislavov, “Stematography” 1741 by Christophor Zhefarovich depicting Bulgarian and Slavic Saints, Kings. Since the 17th century engravings on religious subject-matter, the so called prints have become especially popular. Pilgrims from the “Holy Places” in Jerusalem, Sveta Gora, Bulgarian Monasteries returning home apart from icons, canopies, rosaries, little crosses, small icons, little spoons etc. have also brought home prints more often xylography works, copper engravings making donations to their churches and close families.
Early in the 19th century there were attempts in some Bulgarian Monasteries of primitive engraving and pattern printing similar to the ones imported from abroad. The longstanding close relations of Samokov with the nearby located Rila Monastery and some Monasteries in Sveta Gora have contributed tremendously to the development of literature and education as early as the 18th century, and in the beginning of the 19th century to the establishment of the painting, wood-carving and engraving schools as well.
The founder of the first Bulgarian printing house founded in Samokov around 1828 was Nikolay Karastoyanov. From the family prints are presented “Ascension” by Karastoyanov and “St.St. Kiril and Metodiy” by his brother Vladimir.
In the first decades after the Liberation in 1878 in newly liberated Bulgaria graphics did not find favorable ground for its successful and fast development under the new social, cultural and economic conditions. The original art of the self-taught engravers from the Renaissance was already considered as ignorant and primitive that is why the wood-carvingtechniques got almost completely out of use. Only lithography was to a certain extent implemented in the late works of Nikolay Pavlovich and Georgi Danchev.
The traditional techniques -xylography, copper engraving and lithography early in the century were quickly replaced by the new photomechanical methods of reproduction introduced in Bulgaria in the 1880s. Among the new techniques of direct service to polygraphy initially was applied steel engraving (ritina). It was introduced by Nikola S.Popov (1868 – 1954), graduated in graphic arts from the Art Academy in Vienna.
The Czech lithographer Josif Silaba who was invited as a lecturer (1905 – 1908) in the Drawing School in Sofia, the present National Academy of Arts, played a positive part in the technical evolution of Bulgarian graphics. The Czech Josif Peter (1881–1925) should also be given credit in this respect. Together with his teaching he introduced the study of etching and aquatint. Among his students were the first artists graduated from the Drawing School who had dedicated themselves to graphic arts – Petar Morozov, Mihail Krustev and Georgi Zhelezarov.
Hristo Berberov also played an outstanding part in the graphic technique of etching. This first generation of Bulgarian graphic artists elaborated in the 1920s the landscape and portrait genre. Nikolay Raynov showed originality in the area of landscape genre presented in an exposition with the color linocut “Rhodope Motive”.
The multi-figure composition on historic and everyday subject-matter started its development only in the late 1920s and in the 1930s. In this regard the greatest credit goes to the outstanding master of engraving Vasil Zahariev. He has elaborated his works three-dimensionally using the decorative-graphical principles of Renaissance engraving as a point of departure as it is in his especially popular “Historic Boyana Church”. He has created his own conception of style close in spirit and essence to the old national traditions in this area. His best compositions “Marincho Binbelov – The Fearful”, “Rila Shepherds”, “Raspberry Pickers” and a great number of landscape compositions were based on these principles. His works have created the premises for the establishment of a decorative-monumental tradition in Bulgarian graphic arts to be further developed by the artists of the next generations.
In the 1930s the ideological-esthetic program of the artists from the circle “Native Art”with Vasil Zahariev also belonging to it has been involved with the past and with certain historical-romantic and archaic aspects of Bulgarian everyday life. However on a parallel with that also appear graphic arts reflecting new social and political problems. By getting in touch with the progressive European graphic arts in the 1930s the Bulgarian graphic artists Pencho Georgiev, Veselin Staykov, Iliya Petrov, Nikolay Shmirgela, Preslav Karshovski, Dimitar Draganov, Georgi Gerasimov, Naum Hadzhimladenov and others managed to find more effective means of expression. The plastic language of the graphic artists of the 1930s has decisively enriched the emotional pattern of engraving with its influences from the secession and the European expressionism. The greatest plastic achievement in graphic arts in the 1930s and 1940s, with Veselin Staykov’s art deserving a great merit in this respect, is conquering of space of the three-dimensional volume of the form by establishing the exact correlations between black and white ( e.g. the landscape from “Tyulenovo” in the wood-engraving technique). Valuable graphic works with a more chamber character were created in that period also by Ana Kramer, Sidoniya Atanasova presented in the Art Gallery collection with a landscape from “ Balchik Coast” as well as Karlo Yordanov. In that period engraving has a more chamber character. The social-political processes of fierce class struggle that started in that period were depicted by means of the publicist graphics - the political drawing and the cartoon, the poster. Its brightest and most talented representatives are Iliya Beshkov, whose ink drawings “I Have Given Birth To Those” and “Hot News” have newly arrived in the Gallery of Art collection, Aleksandar Zhendov, Boris Angelushev, Stoyan Venev presented in the exposition with the monotype “The Kiss”. Their works had an enormous ideological-propaganda impact in depicting the new social phenomena of liferealities. The circumstance that they have showed no interest in graphic techniques does not in the least diminish their significance as outstanding and unique masters of the black and white art, because as masters of the drawing they have exerted a great influence on their students. It refers particularly to Iliya Beshkov and Boris Angelushev who appeared to have been the leaders of two different schools in our graphic arts after the 1950s.
Until late in the 1940s no significant changes took place with regard to the formal-technical problems of contemporary graphic arts. Alongside with the outstanding masters of the 1930s new artists like Aleksandar Poplilov became quite convincing with their works enormously contributing to the development of applied graphics, Nikola Mirchev, Marko Behar etc.Their graphic works still bear the image of the bravely and energetically created drawing, whose chief merits are certainly to be found in the dynamic movement of the human figure and the uneasy vigorous composition. Some works on contemporary subject-matter e.g. the lithography “Woman from Dobroudzha” by Atanas Neychev, drawing of a young peasant woman done with diluted oil paint on paper; Nayden Petrov, Mariya Nedkova, the lithography “Air” from the subject-cycle of the same name by Stoyan Venev, Hristo Neykov’s series of “Drawings” and the lithography works “Heathen Holiday” bear the characteristics of being drawn from nature. As a thorough suggestion, they bear the marks of a complete portrait or multi-figure composition showing one’s attitude towards life, towards the world surrounding the creator. Up to the late 1950s graphic arts were prisoners of the ideology and the socialist realistic method assigning definite ideological-artistic tasks to the Bulgarian fine arts. On overcoming the period of totalitarianism in 1956 the conditions necessary for the development of the artistic expression of graphic arts language have become to a great extent more favorable.
The significant ideological-artistic acquisitions, achieved in the 1960s belong mostly to the new generation of graphic artists. From their very first appearance they manifested a number of common features with regard to their attitude towards problems involving graphic arts – the quest for an expressive silhouette, a very well balanced composition, a tendency towards a monumental suggestion of the form with the help of a laconic simplified graphic language. Thanks to their first teachers in the Academy of Arts – Iliya Beshkov and Boris Angelushev in the very beginning of their creative practice the contemporary graphic artists showed a very clear understanding of the significance and the goals of their art – that it should always be firmly bound with life with the current social problems of the realities.A great number of them like Todor Panayotov, Hristo Neykov, Mara Parpulova, Atanas Neykov, Mariya Nedkova, Petar Chuhovgski, Anastasiya Panayotova, Zlatka Dabova, Yuli Minchev, Borislav Stoev, Zhana Kosturkova, Pencho Kulekov, Petar Chuklev, Lyuben Dimanov and others have acquired national significance and international popularity.They are recognized graphic artists in the period of 1960s-1980s, who have created a solid amount of works of art and their achievements are of great inportance. In their works like the linocut “Forest” by Yuli Minchev, the woodcut “Morning” by Zlatka Dabova, “After Yordan Yovkov”, using the dry needle technique, the color lithography by Borislav Stoev ”Landscape-Village” and others, there is an evident variety of application of graphic techniques. Besides wood engraving sometimes replaced by linocut, the lithography and the etching they have applied various composition skills and mixed techniques.
Inthe1970sthesemasterswerejoinedbyanothergroupoftalented younggraphicartists, likeLyubenDimanov, PetarChuklev, RumenSkorchev, GrigorSpiriudonov, TodorAtanasov, ZdravkoZahariev, TanyaVladova, IvanNinov, DimitarKazakov, MihailPetkov, VioletaGrivishka, IvanDimov, IvanB. Ivanov, KostadinkaMiladinova, DimitarBakalov, StoyanStoyanov, MitkoBumov, NikolaHadzhitanev, LyubomirYordanov, HriostoGradechliev, LyubenStoev, StoimenStoilov, StoyanTsanev, NikolayMaystorov, Milko Bozhkov, Mariya Duhteva, HristoGospodinov, PetarPetrovandothers. Some of them combine their quest for plastic style with the national traditions and others strive to find a solution to their ideological-artistic problems in a more multilateral and elaborate way through the associative-metaphorical method of interpretation. Instead of narrating the subject-matter, they reveal the deep essential aspects of the pictorial phenomenon through associations, making use of image components richer in their characteristics of meaning. These new features and specific aspects in their approach towards the ideological-artistic problems in recent years have been reflected very differently in the light of each creative individuality.
In the last decades there has been a change in the use of traditional graphic techniques with the predominance of methods combining different media in creating a graphic work and its printing, implementing digital technologies as well as the graphic sheets of Valentin Stefanov, Vladimir Chukich, Nedko Nedkov, Evelina Handzhieva, Plamen Monev.
Nowadays in Bulgarian graphic arts there is a great variety of approaches towards vital material, with regard to historic subject–matter as well as contemporary topics. It opens possibilities for developing of creative abilities. The post-conceptual character of art can be observed mostly with young artists, who after the early 1990s established a new visual–plasticinterpretation of graphic space turning it into a screen of their inner world and spiritualityand an area of activity implementing different media.