Nikola Petrov, a foremost talent in Bulgarian art

Sofia - the Liberator King Square
Photo: Архив
Until 30 Oct. the Sofia City Gallery displays an exhibition dedicated to Nikola Petrov, one of Bulgaria’s foremost talents in fine arts. The exhibition was mounted to mark his 130th birth anniversary with works collected from the archives of galleries and museums in Sofia, in the artist’s hometown Vidin, Northwestern Bulgaria, Plovdiv, Vratsa, Stara Zagora, Pleven, and from private collections.

“We have made a commitment to younger generations to organize displays of more classical and historical character by presenting artists who were innovators in Bulgarian art”, Adeliva Fileva, SCG Director said in an interview for Radio Bulgaria.
Sofia Plane

“Nikola Petrov belonged to the first generations of Bulgarian artists – he graduated in the second alumni of the National Academy of Arts. Nikola Petrov created a fresco at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin. In our gallery we keep some of the drafts for the fresco. The current exhibition features Nikola Petrov as a landscape painter, portraitist, illustrator and fresco artist.”

Nikola Petrov has been acknowledged as the father of the cityscape in Bulgaria. In the years when he was active, the capital city grew intensively, and some important buildings rose to determine its pattern. The National Theater was built in 1904 and very soon it was recreated in a Petrov painting. He painted some of the most beautiful squares – Tsar Osvoboditel, Lion’s Bridge, the ancient St. Sophia Church and some of the city’s lovely markets. As landscape artist he painted the beautiful Sofia field, mountain vistas and rivers, pastoral scenes with horses, cows and goats, meadows and reaped fields. His portraits are remarkable – vivid, breathing and full of insights. One cannot but notice his masterful nudes. In fact the exhibition mounted to mark Nikola Petrov’s 130th birth anniversary is good in that it conveys the diversity of his talent and work. There is this remarkable fluency with which he experiments in sketches drawn with pencil or charcoal. Equally impressive are his results in using the watercolor and oil alike.

Unfortunately the artist died very young from TB. He was aged 35. “This is quite disenchanting, because his huge talent would have culminated at a more mature age”, Adelina Fileva explains. Similar to other gifted artists who lived short lives, Nikola Petrov worked with incredible intensity. At 22 he was already a member of the Contemporary Art Society. In 1903 he was awarded with a state scholarship and left for Rome. From then on he mounted works in Sofia, Belgrade, Liege, London, Zagreb, Munich, Venice, Rome and Berlin. What about a parallel between him and Ivan Milev, another Bulgarian artist of great talent who died even before turning 30?

“The artists of that generation had certain values. Their works attest to their drive to create European art that matches the highest level in world art. They made good use of all European and world lessons, in recreating Bulgarian themes. They worked for the sake of conveying the Bulgarian meanings and values to others. All this may sound a bit romantic but it is a fact and shows in the works. For me both Nikola Petrov and Ivan Milev were artists that have relevance today because they recreated the dynamism of their time. The early 20 c. was an amazing time in a range of spheres – architecture, construction, creation of schools and other institutions in Bulgaria etc. This enormous energy found its interpretation in art as well. Well, the great achievements of the two spectacular talents of Nikola Petrov and Ivan Milev are based on hard work and devotion to art. As a result of this we are lucky to have various and numerous works painted by them, though their physical lives were fairly short”, concludes Adeliva Fileva, Director of the Sofia City Gallery.

Translated by Daniela Konstantinova
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