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Zahari Zograf – the most prominent icon painter in the Bulgarian lands

The Wheel of Life, Monastery of the Transfiguration of Christ, Veliko Tarnovo. Saints Cyril and Methodius, Troyan Monastery
Photo: dveri.bg

Zahari Zograf, an emblematic figure of the Bulgarian National Revival, who has gone down in history as an artist, but also as an advocate for the use of the Bulgarian language in church service, died on 14 June 167 years ago.

The master icon painter from the Samokov School of icon painting has left multiple works of excellence for the coming generations. To this very day icons and frescoes by him can be seen in different churches and monasteries – the Last Judgement fresco in Bachkovo Monastery, Saints Cyril and Methodius in Troyan Monastery, the Wheel of Life in Preobrazhenie Monastery etc.

Yet it was clerics that maintained that the most famous of all icon-painters in Bulgaria had committed apostasy in his art, paving the way to the decline of icons, prior the country’s liberation from Ottoman domination, to become the father of secular painting in Bulgaria. Zahari Zograf was also anathematized for the audacity of painting his own face on the walls of monasteries, thus highlighting the human creator as opposed to the Creator of all things.

Prof. Elena Genova from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences Institute of Art Studies talks about Zahari Zograf’s innovative spirit and the audacity of his ideas, and also about the generation of icon painters who created the most prominent icon-painting school in Bulgaria – the Samokov school.

From Radio Bulgaria’s collection: Prof. Elena Genova presents: The Samokov School of iconography

Edited by Diana Tsankova

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