Portraits by Zlatyu Boyadzhiev- an unknown world in shadow of his great creator

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Boyan Radev and two of his favourite paintings: Jew (Zlatyu Boyadzhiev’s early period) and Gipsy (1968)

Zlatyu Boyadzhiev (1903-1976) is undoubtedly among the most prominent Bulgarian artists. An exhibition of portraits by him is on display at the National Art Gallery in Sofia. The works presented are part of Boyan Radev’s collection.

“Once again we put on display a favorite Bulgarian artist. Perhaps one of the biggest Bulgarian artists – Zlatyu Boyadzhiev,” head of the gallery, Slava Ivanova, said at the opening of the exhibition. "This is a collection of portraits that many of us were unaware of. Meticulously, with incredible patience and passion of a real collector, Boyan has managed to gather the portraits over the years. Here you will see a selection of portraits of intellectuals, writers, artists, actors. And at the same time you will see faces of ordinary people, the way only Zlatyu Boyadzhiev could have depicted them. There is that deep human psychology seen in his portraits. I want to thank Boyan Radev for his generosity to share with us the splendor of his collection. With every new exhibition, Boyan Radev raises the bar higher and I am sure his next exhibition here will also be wonderful.”

Portrait of writer S. T. Daskalov and wife – poetess Liana Daskalova (1962)

During his first creative period (until 1951), Zlatyu Boyadzhiev had already showed his creative personality, despite still standing close to traditionalism. From his early period guests can see “Portrait of a Lady” (1932). In 1951, the artist suffered a stroke and as a result his right hand was paralyzed. It seemed that his creative career was over, but he soon started to draw again using his left hand and his style and technique changed sharply. He drew on large canvases and we see colorfulness and rich imagination. These works gradually received the recognition of audience and the critics. In them one can see also grotesque and symbolic elements, parts of naïve and decorative art, magical realism.... In fact, the definition is not so important. Simply put, his paintings immediately grab the viewer's attention.

The portraits of his later period have long stayed in the shadow of his large colorful symphonies just like the last string quartets by Beethoven that had long been in the shadow of his spectacular 9th Symphony. But soft watercolors and precise strokes immediately hint at the personality of the artist. The portraits by Zlatyu Boyadzhiev are quite characteristic of his genius. In them there is a lot of creative fantasy, combined with detailed depiction of specific people, most of them well known in this country. The colors, the original position of figure and face, the ingenious details, make his portraits unusually bright and characteristic. An example of this ingenuity is the image of famous Bulgarian actress Katya Paskaleva, depicted in a triptych painted back in the 1960s. The three paintings show the actress in different periods of her life, pointing out different traits of her character.

Actress Katya Paskaleva – a portrait triptych (1960s)

Collector Boyan Radev is also a man of extraordinary fate. He is the most successful Bulgarian wrestler in Greco-Roman style and two-time Olympic champion (in 1964 and 1968). After the end of his sport career, love for art turned into collector’s passion. He has donated many artworks and the National Museum of History says he is its biggest contributor. A hall in the museum is also named after Boyan Radev.

“I am very proud to have some of the works by great Bulgarian artist Zlatyu Boyadzhiev,” Boyan Radev said at the opening of the exhibition at the National Art Gallery. “Bulgarian people should be proud to have such great personalities. Be proud of Zlatyu Boyadzhiev and be proud of being Bulgarians. We need worthy Bulgarians to raise the flag of this country high and know we are not second-class people.”

Boyan Radev has told Radio Bulgaria that he was already preparing a next exhibition with paintings by Zlatyu Boyadzhiev.

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: Permanent Exposition Z. Boyadzhiev, Old Plovdiv Institute, National Gallery and Veneta Pavlova

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