In 1933, the works of the artists Alexander Lazarov, Atanas Mihov, Vlado Vladimirov, Georgi Karakashev, Dimitar Diolev, Karl Matei, Kiril Stanchev, Lyuben Gaidarov, Nikola Kostov, Rusi Ganchev, Todor Yankov marked the beginning of the fund and today make up the permanent exhibition Founders of the Ruse Art Gallery.
In 1946, was received the oldest work, created in 1868 – St. St. Cyril and Methodius, by the Bulgarian revival artist Nikolay Pavlovich.
We should also mention the portrait Lady with a Hat by Vasil Stefanov – Chilito, which convincingly reveals the mood, dreams and spiritual excitement of a young woman. This portrait became emblematic of the Painting collection. Among the many works received during the first years, the canvases of Vladimir Dimitrov – the Master: Girls, the still life Pears, the landscape Spring and Angels stand out. With his individual style, forms and colourful solutions, the artist creates characteristic national images of peasant women and girls and embodies their working life, national holidays and customs.
The viewer is captivated by the calmness of the water and the silvery shades of the waves in the paintings of Atanas Mihov, by the impressionistic searches of Nikola Tanev in Karlovo courtyard, by the creative discoveries of Danail Dechev in The Soldier on Leave and Kaloferski Market, and by Zdravko Aleksandrov in On the Field and Karlanovo.
Dechko Uzunov’s Nude Body is among his most artistic works in this genre. The exquisite harmony of tones and light construction, the delicate form and peculiar colour in this painting, realised with the freedom in its execution, make this work a true masterpiece in our collection.
Dechko Uzunov “Nude”
The paintings from the 50s and 60s of the 20th century, presented in the collection of the Gallery, are distinguished by profound national originality. They belong to the direction of art, the roots of which are in the folk traditions and the memory of centuries-old attempts for freedom.
Filled with drama and heroism, they are characteristic of socialist realism. Here we can point out the works of artists such as Alexander Poplilov (Night in Ruschuk), Damyan Nikolov (Peasant Table), Tseno Todorov (Portrait of the Artist’s Mother), Nayden Petkov (Yonko Karagyozov from Sevlievo – an insurgent from 1876), Stoyan Venev (Farewell 1923), Boris Vassilev (Rest) and others. The works of these authors were donated by the Chamber of National Culture, thanks to which the artist Kiril Stanchev, then the secretary of the group of Ruse artists, is credited.
In parallel, the first curator of the gallery, the artist Angel Yankov, collected paintings from private collections and state institutions. Thus, the collection includes the watercolour by Nikola Marinov, given by the First Boys’ High School Knyaz Boris I, and the painting Lunch in the field by Damian Nikolov, received by State Insurance Institute.
Despite the preserved documents, it is sometimes extremely difficult to establish how the collection was formed. In the Inventory book, in the column “how it was acquired” it is most often written: from the Ministry of Education and Culture, Regional National Museum, Department of Culture and Art – Ruse, Executive Committee of the Regional People’s Council and less often by private individuals. That is why the question of the existence of a special commission for the purchase of paintings remains open.
Mario Zhekov “Ships on Danube River”, 1942
A separate group of works, which can be defined as an independent collection, represent the landscapes of the Danube River and the Ruse city. Almost all of them belong to the artists from Ruse: Petar Popov, Radi Nedelchev, Nikolay Ruschukliev, Stefan Katsarov, Velimir Petrov, Dimitar Hinkov, Marko Monev, Vasilka Moneva, Roksanda Kostova and others. Most of these works were purchased during the North Bulgarian art exhibitions and one-man shows.
In the 1960s, under the influence of impressionist traditions and as a first step towards expanding the stylistic range, the lyrical beginning in the narrative became predominant. The individual worldview opposes the parade picture, asserting direct observation and the expression of life impressions. We can find this in the works of Tsviatko Tsvetkov’s Self Portraits, Dimitar Stefanov’s My Mother, Georgi Pavlov – Pavleto’s Sea City, Nikola Marinov’s Dressing and Lady with a White Hat, etc. The aim of the authors is not the unambiguous presentation, but the complex treatment of the emotional-psychological state of the person. In the work of other artists from the same period – Svetlin Rusev, Dimitar Kirov, Ioan Leviev, Encho Pironkov, Atanas Yaranov, Nayden Petkov, and Vera Lukova, a different focus is sought. This is where open journalism, moral pathos, social commitment and, last but not least, the pursuit of psychological expressiveness without unnecessary pathos appear.
In the 1970s, changes were also observed in the Landscape genre. From the traditional recreation of the natural form, he moves into a landscape contemplation, with special attention to the structure of the object, manifested in the works of Petar Dochev Composition 12 and Composition 36, Alexander Petrov Plucking lavender and Yordan Kisiov Exit. Another version of the landscape – reflection, in which the usual genre boundaries are destroyed, can be found in Georgi Baev’s canvas Anxious Time. With few but powerful strokes, he recreates the marine element, using paints in their absolute purity and openness.
Harmony, silence and peace reign in the works of Boris Ivanov, Snezhina Popgencheva, Todor Filipov, Marko Monev, Kiril Gerasimov, and Atanas Patsev and Genko Genkov can be observed in an expressionistic approach.
The works of the artists in the fund of the Ruse Art Gallery from the 80s of the 20th century are included in the general line of development of Bulgarian art. They are characterized by “introversion, poetic loneliness, alienation and existentialist moods”. These are the works of Petar Popov, Violeta Radkova, Yuri Bukov, Lyuben Gaidarov, Ivan Vukadinov, Rumen Gasharov, Nusha Goeva, Aneta Dragushanu, Yanaki Kavrakov, Yordan Katsamunski.
At the same time, Ruse artists began to work in the hyperrealism style. Volodya Kenarev and Nikolay Karadjov show a special “interest in the detail in the small format”. It is an indisputable fact that in the 1980s, the collection received the largest amount of paintings for its entire existence, as a result of the active artistic life in the country and the activity of the Union of Bulgarian Artists.
Atanas Patsev “Entrance Exam”
The organization of thematic exhibitions leads to the need for appropriate halls. Then, in the early 1980s, the construction at 39 Borisova Street, known as the Great Exhibition Hall, was built. There the Gallery is still located today. Later, the entire fund, temporarily stored in the old building of the State Archives, was also moved.
The last artworks from general exhibitions were made in 1991. From then until 2005, receipts came from donations by artists or their heirs. From 2005 to 2008, the Gallery received funds from the Municipality of Ruse and sought to fill the white spots in its collection. Such an acquisition is The Virgin and Child by Lika Yanko.
In addition to Bulgarian works, numerous foreign works entered the fund through individual purchases. From solo exhibitions or plein airs held in 1983-1989 in the medieval town of Cherven, the collection was enriched with paintings by authors from Poland, Germany, Latvia, Ukraine, and China. The participation of the Gallery in the annual International Festival March Music Days helped to form a different and unique collection – Music. It includes works by Dimitar Kirov, Andrey Daniel, Evstati Marinov, Ivaylo Evstatiev, Sachiko Adachi and others.
Bulgarian fine art has followed a complex and uneven development, but it has left famous names and significant works in national art history. Some of them are kept in the Ruse Art Gallery.