City Art Gallery of Plovdiv displays Ilia Beshkov’s exhibition Bashfulness and Passions

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An exhibition takes us to home and public baths, to brothels and private bedrooms to show the intimate world of the people living in the first half of the 20th century. The exposition Iia Beshkov -Bashfulness and Passions consisting of 150 drawings is now on display at the City Art Gallery of Plovdiv. It reveals the most-intimate secrets that were not available on display before.

After the military coup in 1934 when the Bulgarian National Assembly was dissolved and the political parties were banned a total censorship was imposed over the press. Thus, Ilia Beshkov was not allowed to publish his cartoons anymore. Then, he came up with the idea to paint everything people do secretly and fill his notebook with drawings of lustful men and promiscuous widows, spouses and people during intimate moments.

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“The exhibition has two main purposes - to show some of Iliya Beshkov’s drawings that were not shown in public before and to track the development of the renowned Bulgarian artist and cartoonist over the years”, the curator of the exhibition Krasimir Iliev told Radio Bulgaria. “Ilia Beshkov is a very sensitive artist who responded to every political event in this country. However, he was also attracted by the intimate world of the Bulgarians. In his view, the intimate world affects every human behavior, including peoples’ behavior in politics”.

When in 1938 Ilia Beshkov launched his first exhibition art critics called him “a Man who reproves vicious life”. However, Beshkov did not agree with these statements saying he was not a judge to issue verdicts.

“These are actually normal things. Back then people believed that it was normal, in terms of morality, for an adult man to go to brothels. However, the young girls were told to avoid crossing Maria Luiza street downtown Sofia, because they should not see the scantily dressed women who worked there. The public and home baths were also very interesting places and became part of Ilia Beshkov’s works. He painted women in public baths or couples having a bath at home.”

The visitors of the exhibition can also learn about Ilia Beshkov’s thoughts written in his diaries. Recently his book named the Red Notebook was published. While the celebrated Bulgarian artist was giving a relentless diagnosis of the surrounding reality, the State Security was filling his personal file with other types of notes.

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“We read some of Ilia Beshkov’s statements for the first time. They were not part of the popular Red Notebook. Beshkov used to write thoughts in another red notebook that were neither announced in public nor shared with friends. Ilia Beshkov has a personal file and his brother, who was a minister in one of the governments before September 9, 1944 coup, was assassinated by the so-called People’s Court.”

Ilia Beshkov is among Bulgaria’s most acclaimed artists of the 20th century. When his cartoons were displayed abroad he was compared with the most celebrated world artists such as Rembrandt and Goya. Moreover, Ilia Beshkov was a great person as well. "I love people. Nothing else moves, repulses, brings me to tears and frightens me as much as people", the renowned Bulgarian artist used to say. "I turn the whole bitterness of my life into a sincere and pure smile and I give that smile to the first person I meet", Ilia Beshkov wrote in his Red Notebook.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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