CULTURAL BULGARIA 1878-1944
Literature: - Bulgarian literature, as well as the history of Bulgaria, is divided into three periods: i - the period prior to the Liberation of Bulgaria; ii - the period following the Liberation; iii - the period before and after World War I. The particular character of each of these periods is reflected in its literature.
The first period was revolutionary; writers fought with the gun, as well as, with the pen. The first and the best among them was Christo Boteff - deep, impetuous and fiery, he was unsurpassed either as a fighter against tyrans or as a poet. One of his predecessors was G. S. Rakovsky, who, gave the impulse to the Bulgarian revolutionary movement and was the indefatigable promoter of the Bulgarian language; as was, also, Luben Karaveloff - the first Bulgarian narrator. Their contemporary, Petko R. Slaveikoff, was less active as a revolutionist and more devoted to literature. There were, also, a few other writers during the same period, but their works smothered by the works of the post-liberation writers and were soon forgotten. One must, however, mention Vassil Drumeff - the creator of Bulgarian drama.
During the early period after the liberation, following names became prominent and still survive: Ivan Vasoff, Stoyan Mihailovsky, Constantine Velitchkoff, Mihalaki Gueorguieff, Aleko Constantinoff, Todor Vlaikoff, Anton Strashimiroff, Gueorgui Stamatoff, Tzanko Tzerkovsky, Stilian Tchilingiroff, Ivan Kiriloff, etc. They are the representatives of the tempestuous time of deeds and ideas, when, the new Bulgarian State was organizing itself. These writers contributed to the work of organisation, by their efforts, to build up citizenship. They form a group, which, may be called the group of the patriarchs of Bulgarian literature.
The generation of writers, which, immediately preceded the World War I - seemed, theoretically speaking, in a way to constitute a school of ideas opposed to that of the former writers. But, as a matter of fact, they would not have appeared so rapidly on the scene without the latter. The work accomplished by the writers who preceded them had to be done in order that the aestheticism, in which they prided themselves in their works, should be understood. This new generation produced, however, the greatest number of talented writers. To them belong: i - the poets Pentcho Slaveikoff, Peyuo Yavoroff, Nicholay Lilieff, Cyril Christoff, Mara Beltcheva, Theodor Trianoff, Trifon Kuneff, Dora Gabe, Dimtcho Debelianoff, Ludmil Stoyanoff, Nicholay Rakitin, Emanuile Popdimitroff, etc; ii - the novelists Peyuo Todoroff, Elin Pelin, Yordan Yovkoff, Nicholay Rainoff, Gueorgui Raitcheff, Stefan Kostoff, Constantine Constantinoff, Dimitar Shishmanoff, Vladimir Mussakoff, Dobri Nemiroff, Damian Kalfoff, etc. This pre-war generation represents the literature of the quieter times of peace, and, their works therefore are fuller of idealism and contemplative elements.
The World War I, or rather the troubled and tempestuous years following the war - which were marked by political, social and economic changes - have also its writers. They are swayed, sometimes by the left and sometimes by the right, cleaving to their native land and yet sometimes cosmopolitan; they are a generation seeking their definite orientation. It is a generation representing the times of world depression. The most important names of this restless period are: i - the poets Elisaveta Bagriana, Geo Mileff, Christo Yassenoff, Yordan Stubel, Christo Smirnensky, Atanas Daltcheff, Ivan Christoff, Ivan Mirtcheff, Margarita Mineva, Assen Raszvetnikoff, Nicholay Furnadjieff, etc; ii - the novelists Fani Popova-Mutafova, Vladimir Polianoff, Constantine Petkanoff, Angel Karaliitcheff, Ratcho Stoyanoff, Tchavdar Mutafoff, etc.
Painting: - The Renaissance has had hardly any influence on Bulgarian painting, owing to the isolated state of the country. During the whole time of the Turkish rule - in spite of the very severe conditions under which the Bulgarian people lived - painting, without developing, continued to exist; not breaking entirely with the national tradition. During the first half of the 19th century after the Peace of Adrianople /1829/, which, gave a certain religious liberty to the Christian population of the Ottoman Empire - a forward movement in ecclesiastical art is noticeable, viz. iconography and wood carving. Western civilization began to penetrate the Ottoman Empire at about this same time.
The iconographic school came to an end with the painters Stanislav Dospevsky and Nicholay Pavlovich, and, modern Bulgarian painting began. Stanislav Dospevsky studied in the Academies of Fine Arts of Moscow and St. Petersburg; he established a link, between, the iconographical and academical styles. There are numerous icons made by him in the Bulgarian churches. He has, also, produced portraits. Nicholay Pavlovich appears as a great pioneer in introducing the Western realistic style into Bulgaria, and, to assure its success he begins a systematic struggle against the dry canons of the Byzantine iconography. His icons were in Western style, and, for that reason he did not enjoy popularity. His lithographed prints, however, apart from their artistic value were much sought after that period - because, of their patriotic subjects.
After the Liberation, the academical style definitely imposed itself on Bulgarian painting. The first Bulgarian painters after the Liberation, Anton Mitoff and Christo Stancheff, studied in Italy, France and Germany. In addition to them two Czech painters, Jaroslav Veshin and Ivan Mrkvicha, were invited as professors of painting in the art schools of Bulgaria. All this first masters of the brush painted portraits, and, typical scenes from national Bulgarian life. For instance, Anton Mitoff painted markets; Ivan Mrkvicha - national customs and dances; Jaroslav Veshin - military subjects, etc. The Bulgarian representatives of portraiture in academical style are: Nicholay Mihailoff, Stefan Ivanoff and Boris Mitoff. The first representative of the impressionist school in Bulgaria was Nicholay Petroff, who, was a very talented painter but was carried off by an early death. Similarly, the representative of the secession school in Bulgaria, Goshka Datzoff, died prematurely.
A great development set in after the World War I in Bulgarian painting. Painters known, already, before the war and achieved new results: Sirak Skitnik became the chief of the expressionist school in Bulgaria, and, Nicholay Rainoff gave a series of decorative paintings interesting for their exotic modern harmony. Boris Deneff and Nicholay Taneff, were painters of the sun and the Bulgarian landscape, as well as, of very interesting oriental architecture; Vladimir Dimitrov-Maistora, was the painter of the Bulgarian peasant woman. But the greatest impulse to Bulgarian painting was given by a young generation, which, appeared on the scene after the war. The leader of this group was Ivan Mileff, who, broke away from the routine of academical composition and combined the national with the modern. His companion was Ivan Penkoff, who, later on specialized as a scene painter.
The majority of the young Bulgarian painters did not go so far in modernism, as their Western colleagues and the adepts of the modernist schools. These bold painters became especially prominent through their skill, talent and taste. The portraits of Detchko Ouzounoff have a modern line and colouring; Ilia Petroff draws with graphical exactness and colouring. We would mention in this group Boris Obreschkoff, Ivan Nenoff, Atanas Daltcheff, Boris Ivanoff, etc. Ivan Boyadjieff differs from them by the variegated colours in his pictures, and, a livelier understanding of forms; whilst, Tzanko Lavrenoff is interesting for his paintings of national customs - which, are rendered in an oriental iconographical style. To this young generation, also, belong the talented painters Ivan Christoff and Dimitar Detcheff - who, take their subjects specially from old Bulgarian architecture. Kosta Shtarkeloff and Neno Marinoff, excel in water colour pictures of Bulgarian landscapes. Water colour painters of the young generation are, also: Vladimir Stoiloff, who, shows the more general human traits in his pictures and combines the academical with the national styles; Boris Ivanoff and others. Graphical art has not many representatives in Bulgaria. A Talented representative, however, of this branch of art is Vassil Zaharieff, who, shows a masterly combination of Western technique and Bulgarian art in his wood engravings.
The first master of caricature in Bulgaria is Alexander Bojinoff, whose, witty sketches have been appearing in Bulgarian periodicals for many years. Among talented caricaturists of the young generation may be mentioned Raiko Alexieff, Ilia Beshkoff and Alexander Dobrinoff.
Mention might, also, be made of a few well known Bulgarian painters who worked abroad. They are: Nicholay Mihailoff, whose, refined portraits were much appreciated in America and in certain European countries; Boris Gueorguieff, a restless spirit, producing mystical and delicate pictures with great precision of drawing; Pentcho Gueorguieff - a scene painter, etc. Among the representatives of the extreme modernist schools may be mentioned: Gueorgui Papazoff, a surrealist, working in Paris; Nicholay Diulgheroff, who, belongs to the "Marinetti" group, etc.
The following women painters must be specially mentioned: Stefka Konsulova-Vasova, who, paints interiors and still-life; Russka Marinova, whose, delicate pastel portraits are of great perfection of form; Masha Ouzounova, also, a fine portrait painter; Vera Lukova, which, is one of the youngest, etc.
Sculpture: - Up to the time of the Liberation, sculpture was almost exclusively represented in Bulgaria by wood carving, depicting apocalyptical animals as well as local fruits and plants. After the Liberation Western influence became predominant. In Bulgarian sculpture the following three names, masters of the chisel, were the most prominent: Gueorgui Spiridonoff, Andrey Nicoloff and Ivan Lasaroff - all three, professors at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia. Mention may, also, be made of Alexander Andreeff, Mina Ivanoff, Marco Marcoff, Sevo Shivaroff, Leonid Duduloff and Avram Peytcheff, whose, works were of considerable merit. Todor Todoroff and Mara Balsamadjieva, who, were both working in Italy and deserve to be mentioned, etc.
Music: - The only sphere in which the Bulgarian culture, never, ceased to be active during the long centuries of foreign rule - is song. Sad and spontaneous, with a melodious harmony, these songs are now an inexhaustible source from which contemporary composers draw their themes. Not every musical writer, however, has sought his inspiration in folk songs - those, who after long searching elsewhere, have returned to the folk song have found in it the best source. One of them was Pantcho Vladigueroff, a composer, much appreciated both abroad and in Bulgaria. But the writers of contemporary popular music rich in motifs, based on the folk songs, were scarce: Manol Manoloff, Dimiter Bucureshlieff and Dobri Christoff. Petko Stainoff, followed their example. Dimiter Nenoff, who was also a virtuoso pianist, resembled to Pancho Vladigueroff more in the signification - but, his sources of inspiration were more modern. The conductor Atanassoff, a composer of a certain number of operas, had his librettos drawn from the national history - also, popularized his music through his concerts. Luibomir Pipkoff and Nestor Nestoroff, belonging to the Vladigueroff-Nenoff group, may also be mentioned.
Among the better exponents should be mentioned the names of: i - the violinists Sasha Popoff, Boyan Constantinoff, Nedelka Simeonova, Simeon Aktardjieff, etc; ii - the pianists Dobri Christoff, Andrey Stoyanoff, etc; iii - the opera singers Peter Raitcheff, Christina Morfova, Anna Todorova, Konstanza Kirova, Milka Zolotovitch, Peter Zolotovitch, Stefan Makedonsky, Tzvetana Tabakova, etc.
Dancing: - One of the best Bulgarian dancers was Sonia Gueorgieva, who, was known both in Bulgaria and abroad for her dances - said to be, full of harmony and expression. Her creations, however, belonged to the very modern, very studied and very individual. They did not give a true idea of the Bulgarian folk dance. The spontaneous expression and varied forms of the latter, only, can be appreciated when danced by the folks themselves.
Painting from Vladimir Dimitrov-Maistora /1882-1960/