100 години от Първата световна

Reflections of World War I: Modernism and the National Idea in Bulgaria

Irina Genova

Irina Genova is a professor in art studies at the New Bulgarian University and at the Institute of Art Studies of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Her publications discuss manifestations of modernisms in Bulgaria and in neighbouring countries, as well as contemporary artistic practices. Among her books are: Modernisms and Modernity – (Im)Possibility for Historicising (2004), Tempus fugit. On Contemporary Art and the Visual Image, and Modern Art in Bulgaria: First Histories and Present Narratives beyond the Paradigm of Modernity (2013).

Ирина Генова е професор по история и теория на изкуството в Нов български университет и в Института за изследване на изкуствата на Българска академия на науките. Сред книгите ѝ са: Модернизми и модерност – (Не)Възможност за историзиране (2004), Tempus fugit. За съвременното изкуство и визуалния образ (2007), Историзиране на модерното изкуство в България през първата половина на ХХ век. Възможности за разкази отвъд модерността, София (2011), допълнено издание на английски език (2013), и др.

* A version of this text was presented at the conference ‘Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in Avant-Garde and Modernism: The Impact of WWI’ organised by the Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, in 2014 in Prague.

World War I was a traumatic experience which changed the artistic predispositions and thinking in art. The European map was redesigned. After the war, borders changed and new states emerged. In South-Eastern Europe the Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians appeared; later, in 1929, it was renamed as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Albania emancipated itself from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. Romania significantly expanded, in cultural terms too, as it acquired Transylvania and Bessarabia. Western or Aegean Thrace was separated from Bulgaria and was annexed to Greece. After World War I, there followed a war between Greece and Turkey (1919–1922) concerning territories in Asia Minor. Some states acquired while others lost territories; some qualified the consequences of the wars as “national catastrophes” (Bulgaria, Greece), while others saw them as an expansion and consolidation (Romania) or as the beginning of the modern state (Albania). The remains of the Ottoman Empire were turned into a secular national state of Turkey during the rule of Mustafa Kemal (1923–1938). 1 Beyond these differences, World War I and the local wars accompanying it claimed many lives, left ruins behind and led to devastation. Without solving the old problems, the wars laid in some new ones, which were to trigger conflicts in the decades to come.
The artists, poets, and writers from the young and middle generations were mobilized on the front and were assigned the task of covering military events and glorifying victories of their national armies. Some of them did not return – among them from Bulgaria the poet Dimcho Debelyanov (1887–1916) 2 , and the artist Goshka Datsov (1885–1917) 3 . Others were severely wounded: the poet and art critic Geo Milev (1895–1925) 4 lost one of his eyes 5 ; the art critic and artist Sirak Skitnik (1883–1943) 6 was wounded in the chest and in the right hand. There were prisoners of war too: the Romanian artist Nicolae Tonitza (1886–1940) 8 fell prisoner to the Bulgarians in the Battle of Tutrakan/Turtucaia. The Bulgarian woman artist Elisaveta Konsulova-Vazova (1881–1965) 9 worked as a volunteer Samaritan in military hospitals during the Second Balkan War. 10 Not many protagonists of modern art managed to evade the war experience.

Images of the War & Modernity
Modern Times on the Balkans began with military action – fighting for independent states and national autonomy. Across Europe the modern era was replete with wars between nation states which disputed territories, but the Balkans seemed to be synonymous with war. The initial period of the modern independent Bulgarian state began with the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), included the Serbo-Bulgarian war (1885), the two Balkan wars (1912–1913), and ended with World War I (1914–1918; Bulgaria entered World War I in 1915).
The representation of war, with the associated extreme trials on the battlefields, everyday experience behind the frontline, and triumphant marches on the capitals’ boulevards, as well as of imaginary scenes of historic battles and victories, constitutes an important aspect of modernity. The expression of ideas and desires, of a wide range of attitudes and emotional states related to the war, is an integral part of modernist and avant-garde practices.
Modernity as a social practice and a way of life manifested itself in many different fields of activity. The word modernity as related to culture first appeared around 1850 in the writings of Théophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire. According to Jean Baudrillard, that was the point at which an increasingly self-aware society came to regard modernity as a cultural model. 11 In the field of culture, Anthony Smith highlights – among other characteristic features that have a positive or negative impact – the importance of the connection between modernity and nations. 12

Vasil Zahariev: Golgotha, woodcut, reproduction from: Vezni I/ 9 (1919–1920), between pp. 274-275.

Vladimir Dimitrov – the Master: Crucifixion, 1920–1921, India ink, Courtesy: National Art Gallery, Sofia.

The topic of represented modernity was first introduced in 1863 by Baudelaire in his essay “The Painter of Modern Life” (“Le peintre de la vie moderne”) in the magazine Le Figaro. 13 The artist, according to Baudelaire, “is looking for that quality which you must allow me to call ‘modernity’; for I know of no better word to express the idea I have in mind. He makes it his business to extract from fashion whatever element it may contain of poetry within history, to distil the eternal from the transitory”. 14 It seems that only painters, poets and writers have the means (metaphors, symbols, the effects of form) to keep hold of these elusive elements of modernity, as if modernity can only be observed / discussed in terms of representation.
Baudelaire paid special attention to the images of the war as an important part of the imagery of modern times. In chapter VI of “The Painter of Modern Life”, titled “The Annals of War”, one can read: “Bulgaria, Turkey, the Crimea, and Spain have all in turn ministered lavishly to the eye of Monsieur G. – or rather to the eye of that imaginary artist whom we have agreed so to call […] I have studied his archives of the Eastern War – battlefields littered with the débris of death, baggage-trains, shipments of cattle and horses; they are tableaux vivants of an astonishing vitality, traced from life itself, uniquely picturesque fragments which many a renowned painter would in the same circumstances have stupidly overlooked. […] I am ready to declare that no newspaper, no written account, no book has unfolded so well, in all its painful detail and melancholy scope, the great epic poem of the Crimea.” 15
In all Europe, the modern time was associated with, among other images, the uniforms of a multitude of nations involved in war. The representation of men in military uniform and accoutrements, of heroes of national and bourgeois revolutions, of struggles for civil rights, forms an important part of the idea of modernity in the Balkans, as elsewhere in Europe.
Among the early Bulgarian representational examples of men in European military uniforms I would like to mention an extremely curious 19th-century drawing of three men in military uniform in the Album of Drawings by Painters / Zografs from Elena, in the National Art Gallery in Sofia. The drawing is to be found among preparatory sketches for, and copies of, church mural and icons compositions: a burst of interest in topicality and involvement with the modern times. 16 Another example is a mural painting from 1864 in the house of the artist Stanislav Dospevski (1823–1878) 17 in Pazardzhik, Bulgaria, representing soldiers and officers in the yard of the Military Academy in St. Petersburg. 18
The artist Nikolay Pavlovich (1835–1894) 19 created a series of small-size paintings and lithographs representing imaginary scenes of a glorious history of the medieval Bulgarian kingdom. Victorious battles and war heroes constitute the main line of this visual narrative with a didactic ambition. In terms of artistic skills and impact, Pavlovich’s series could not be compared with the large historic paintings, which the artist had the opportunity to see during his training at the academies of Vienna and Munich 20 . In Bulgaria, the academic genre of historic battles as an integral part of the imagined history of modern nations 21 was introduced by foreign artists educated in influential (at that time) academies in Europe. Many of them were Polish and Czech artists who stayed in Bulgaria for a shorter or longer period. Among them were the Polish artists Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz (1852–1916) 22 and Antoni Piotrowski (1853–1924) 23 or the Czech artists Emil Holarek (1867–1919) 24 and Yaroslav Vesin (1860–1915). 25 Yaroslav Vesin was appointed as a military artist at the Ministry of War.

Sirak Skitnik: Mourning mothers, 1920–1921, drawing. Three versions of the same composition. Drawings, reproduced in: Vezni I/5 (1919–1920), between pp. 138-139; Teodor Trayanov: Bulgarian Ballads, Sofia, 1921, page without numbering, and Krustyo Sarafov. Collection to celebrate thirty years of his theatre stage activity, State edition, Sofia 1921, page without numbering.
Ivan Lazarov: Mourning Women, 1922, artificial stone, 42 x 105, Courtesy: National art gallery, Sofia, Inv. N 29.

The images of World War I by Bulgarian artists
The images of World War I, as well as of its predecessor – the two Balkan wars (1912–1913) – by Bulgarian artists reveal a large range of artistic practices between representation and expression, between official narrative, individual stories and personal artistic expressiveness. The experience of academism, 19 th century realism, symbolism, expressionism, and futurism, often in different hybrid versions, could be observed and discussed. One can find festive fanfare, critical echoes, nightmarish visions, and even exalted poetics of destruction. The art and literary magazine Crescendo, 1922, issue 3–4, published part of Marinetti’s poem “Zang Tumb Tumb”, the one that deals with the Bulgarian aeroplane, as well as part of his article “Geometric and Mechanical Splendor and the Numerical Sensibility” (1914) in Bulgarian (Geometrichno I mehanichno velikolepie) 26 . Hastily made sketches on the war terrains, during breaks or in the trenches, provide a close observation of individuals and behaviors. The exhibition of German, Austro-Hungarian, and Bulgarian military artists at the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin in May and June 1917 gave an official perspective of a unique joint exhibition of the Central powers. The forum, according to the catalogue, 27 exhibited 481 works – paintings, sculptures and drawings – by 117 artists. Most of the works were by German artists (309), 107 were by artists from Austria-Hungary and 65 were by Bulgarian artists. Works of different intentions and artistic experience were exposed side by side: official kings’ and army generals’ portraits in sculpture and painting, panoramas of battlefields, and ecstatic human conditions. In landscape views, we can see the geography of Europe assimilated in the experience of war. A continued interest in the images is that of otherness – a landscape or a human being represented through the foreign ally or the captive.

Who were the Bulgarian artists who exhibited in Berlin? All of the artists were participants in the war, with the exception of the painter of official portraits Nikola Mihailov (1876–1960) 28 . Among them were some of the most influential artists of the next period (the 1920s), who made an effort to adapt the experience of European modernisms: Boris Denev (1883–1969) 29 , Nikola Tanev (1890–1962) 30 , Hristo Kavarnaliev (1892–1951) 31 , and Stoyan Raynov (1894–1978) 32 . Some of these painters and sculptors had participated in the broad Movement for Native Art (Dvizhenie za Rodno izkustvo) during the 1920s: Vladimir Dimitrov-Maystora (1882–1960) 33 , Ivan Lazarov (1889–1952) 34 , and Nikola Kozhuharov (1892–1971) 35 .
The group included artists who, in different periods of their career, were in agreement with the official authorities, or at least did not publicly appear in opposition. In the Bulgarian context, however, the distinction of the artists associated with the institutions of power in the 1920s, and especially in the 1930s, from the protagonists of modernisms and avant-garde movements is not as easy as, for instance, in Germany.
It is noteworthy that some of the outstanding participants in the exhibition of military artists at the Royal Academy of Arts in Berlin in 1917 (Ausstellung deutscher, österreichisch-ungarischer und bulgarischer Kriegsbilder 1917) were German artists such as Ludwig Dettmann (1865–1944) 36 , Fritz Erler (1868–1940) 37 , and Franz Eichhorst (1885–1948) 38 , who later cooperated with Hitler’s authorities.
Images of the two Balkan wars and of World War I appeared in group and solo exhibitions in Bulgaria. 39 Iconic compositions like They were victorious (1913) 40 by the sculptor Ivan Lazarov entered text books in history and literature as reproductions.

Circulated images: postcards, stamps, calendars, and images in the press as implementation of national propaganda during the war in the field of mass visual culture
The images of World War I in the mass visual environment have been the subject of research and debate in recent years. 41 The practice of photographic documentation gained importance for Bulgaria in the two Balkan wars and World War I 42 , although it had been utilized earlier – in the late 19th century during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1879 43 . Restorations of military scenes for photography and film purposes were made during the First Balkan War 44 and World War I, shortly after victorious battles (such as the conquest of Edirne by the Bulgarian army in 1913) and in the course of the military operations themselves. This practice of restaging a battle for the purpose of photography was due, on the one hand, to the limited possibilities of photographic equipment (number of frames per minute, range of lens and so on), as well as to the impossibility for photographers to occupy privileged viewpoints in the dynamics of the military actions. On the other hand, though, this practice implemented the idea of creating a photo or film image, which could be perceived as a document forming the visual narrative of the national history.
In fine art, in the exhibition halls many images of war – fighting, panoramas of battlefields, military commanders and so on – had been done using staged photographs. The archive of the artist Jaroslav Věšín contains a large number of such photographs and photo-negatives 45 .
Thus the creation of history in images extended from the mass-circulated visual culture to the “high” unique art. The fact that textbooks in Bulgarian history and literature reproduce fewer photographs than they do paintings created with the assistance of photography, is worth mentioning.
Another part of the mass visual environment – drawn postcards 46 , drawings in the press, and other circulated typographic images – deserves special attention in terms of the opposition of “my nation” and “the enemies”. Naïvely drawn postcards – glorifying images of their own army and grotesque images of the enemy army, committing atrocities or defeated/in captivity – were widely circulated. Comparing this type of images – preceding in certain respects the comics’ imagery – one could recognize visual similarities (characters, situations, compositions and so on) in the Balkan context. Mostly the insignia of the armies are changing.
Caricatures are particular images of war. They are not involved in the invention of national history, at least not in the high register of the solemn and the heroic – in this rank laughter can hardly be accepted. Generally, the topic of laughter and war is challenging. What did caricaturists ridicule? Mainly situations of everyday life in the capital in wartime.
Political caricatures in the press addressing the policy on the participation of Bulgaria in the Balkan War and World War I did not suggest doubt in the cause of war. Most often, they represented King Ferdinand, his ministers, and their diplomatic mistakes. Alexander Bozhinov (1878–1968) was the most influential Bulgarian caricaturist of that time. 4

* * *

At that time the images of World War I and the two preceding Balkan wars were mostly images taken with the intention of creating/inventing national history. Suggestions for the heroism and the self-sacrifice of Bulgarian soldiers in glorious battles against the treacherous and cruel enemies, and insinuations for the patriotic cause of wars for recuperating the unjustly taken Bulgarian lands, were manifested in a wide range of images, from circulated visual propaganda to the works of art in exhibition halls, public collections, and representative spaces of state institutions.
The motive for the unfair loss became an important part of the official Bulgarian history. The widely propagandised idea of the injustice inflicted on Bulgaria brought about revanchist feelings and created the utopia of a supra-individual community. “The wars were the first situation in modern Bulgarian culture that had created “the mass person”, wrote the historian Ivan Elenkov, “[…] huge human masses, overcoming their traditional isolation, united – rationally organised and using technologies, acting in synchrony[…]“ 48 . After 1918, the lived experience of wars and their consequences led to the foundation of common places of collective integrity.

Modernism, Christian symbolism, and orthodox icon after World War I
The traumatic experience of World War I was expressed in poetic and artistic images that affirmed the value of human life beyond the national causes and political achievements. Particularly expressive in this regard are the verses by Geo Milev, written after he had been seriously wounded in the head and lost his right eye as a result:

My head –
a lantern sunk in blood and smashing glass,
gone with the wind and rain, and fog
in the midnight field.
I am dying under elevation 506
to resurrect in Berlin and Paris.
There is no century, no date – just today!” 49

Another poem – “One dead” – by Dimcho Debelyanov ends with the verse: “the dead is our enemy no more”. 50 Debelyanov was killed in battle on October 2, 1916, aged 29 ½ years old.
After World War I new periodicals appeared, among which was the famous modernist oriented magazine Vezni (Scales) (1919–1922) issued by Geo Milev. In Vezni Almanac, 1923, Geo Milev published an essay titled “In Memoriam: Dimcho Debelyanov”, accompanied by a graphic portrait made by himself. 51

One could say that it was difficult to reconcile humanistic values beyond the national causes with the idea of the native art (rodno izkustvo) from the early 1920s, which referred to the local visual culture and its revision in modernist versions. The first impression might be that local practices of modernism/avant-garde, not only in Bulgaria but also in other European marginal artistic milieus, were juxtaposed with the universal utopias of the avant-garde because of the intertwining with local/national identification strategies 52 .
In personalities like Geo Milev, however, these two perspectives co-existed without any contradictions. One could read the following in his “Appeal to the Bulgarian Writer” (“Vazvanie kum bulgarskiya pisatel”, 1921):

“[…] This is your life – and from it you draw your poetry.
You! – That means first and foremost: A human above all! Because there is
something bigger than your writers’ community – the society outside; there
is something bigger than society – the nation; there is something bigger than
the nation – the community of nations; there is something bigger than the
community of nations – humankind.” 53
And more, in the article “Native Art” (“Rodno izkustvo”), Geo Milev wrote:
“By Bulgarian native art […] we mean: art that is created by the Bulgarian
artist so as to manifest his Bulgarian soul through it – so as to introduce the
values of Bulgarian soul to the treasure-house of the World Soul.“

The reconsidering of human values is a very important aspect of the reflections of World War I. It split out the artistic phenomena of the first half of the 1920s from the images of the nation / of the Bulgarian people after the mid-1920s, suggesting the conservative values of the invented national history. Even if some works of art from the 1930s, representing images and characters as specifically national, employ formal modernist idioms, their suggestions and impact were in another register of meanings and emotions.
During the 1930s a nationalist vein became present.
Regarding the impact of World War I on artistic ideas, I would prefer the term humane / pacifist rather than international, in opposition to the national values. In terms of art, the term international does not help to distinguish the notion of man in the Christian humanism sense from the thinking of the human being in the world of nations.
Justifying the use of one or another concept requires long operation. Here I will mention briefly that the concept of internationalism was central to the socialist ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. All of us know the appeal to the “proletarians of all countries […]”. But branches of the labour movement were drawn into nationalist trends in the 1930s 55 .
The anti-war statements in the modernist/avant-garde works of art from the early 1920s could not be carefully approached and interpreted through the term international.
The term universal is not useful either as an opposition of national for the better understanding of the dispositions against war. It pairs with particular. The ideas of love and pity for the human being need to be mediated through powerful stories and images. The great Christian narrative for the love of God gave grounds to Christian humanism, represented and expressed through Christian symbolism and iconography. Human life is sublimated. It transcends the earthly life’s limits. The divine love for the human being can be transformed into human love and vice versa.
After World War I, images with iconography of Pietà and Crucifixion appeared in the exhibition halls, and on the pages of literature collections and artistic magazines. Elsewhere in Europe, in Paris, the artist Georges Rouault (1871–1958) created the graphic cycles Miserere and War (1916–1917; 1920–1927). His works stand slightly apart from the manifestations and transfers of avant-gardes, but I mention them here because they are a powerful reflection against World War I, and against war generally. The miserable human condition, suffering, death, and redemption are central for Rouault’s world image. For German expressionists, Christian symbolism and iconography were also linked with reflections of World War I, particularly in graphic prints. Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884–1976) are only two of the possible examples, both of whom were known to the Bulgarian modernist artists.
Shifting from direct comparisons, I would like to draw attention to dozens of works of art – representations and expressions of inconsolable grief and mourning – created during the 1920s in Bulgaria. The most influential of these followed the iconographic patterns of orthodox imagery. Works of art like Golgotha (Golgotha, woodcut, 1915–1918) 56 by Vasil Zahariev (1895–1971) 57 (FIG. 1), Crucifixion (Razpyatie , drawing, 1920’s) 58 by Vladimir Dimitrov – the Master 59 (FIG. 2), Mourning mothers (Placheshti mayki, drawings, 1920–1921) 60 by Sirak Skitnik 61 (FIG. 3), the relief frieze Weeping / Mourning Women (Placheshti zheni, 1922) 62 by Ivan Lazarov 63 (FIG. 4), Our mothers are forever in mourning (Nashite mayki vse v cherno hodyat, aquarelle, 1926) 64 (FIG. 5) and Crucifixion (Razpyatie, gouache, 1923) 65 (FIG. 6) by Ivan Milev (1897–1927) 66 , and Pieta (Pieta, woodcut, 1920’s) 67 by Pencho Georgiev (1900–1940) 68 (FIG. 7) are exemplary in this respect.

The postwar modernist/avant-garde manifestations in Bulgaria were characterized by a hybridization of the interest in expressionism and late symbolism, but also in the experience of constructivism, futurism, primitivism, etc. The practice of different European trends was mixed with the traditional visual culture called native art. This situation is reminiscent of the crossings of artistic trends in the major European centers before World War I. Wassily Kandinsky is only one of the best known examples, with the transition of images created under the impact of the icon and Russian Lubok during his first period, to expressionism and abstraction at the time of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) and after 69 . One could find other lesser-known examples of crossings between modernist/avant-garde trends and local, pre-modern practices in Latvia, Finland, Greece or elsewhere.
In the case of the Bulgarian art scene, as in other similar cases, the integration of icon and folklore imagery was quite common in the period from the end of World War I until the mid-1920s. Ivan Milev created a fantastic world of images referring to the icon and the Orthodox murals, as well as to the visuality of folklore, with the experience of symbolism, secession and constructivism. The symbolic foundation and the formal stylization of his images, as in the works of other artists at that time, including Sirak Skitnik, Vladimir Dimitrov – the Master, and Pencho Georgiev, integrate the local traditions (pre-academic legacy: the icon, woodcut, fabrics and the song and folklore tale) with the experience of modernism/avant-garde in the influential artistic milieus of Europe.

The end of the 1920s
At the end of the 1920s and in the 1930s, the return to figuration and to the images of an objective environment in Bulgaria were part of the general tendencies in the influential artistic centres: New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) in Germany, the Return to order (Le Retour à l’ordre) in France, and the subsequent neoclassicism wave in the whole of Europe.
Artists distanced themselves from the traumatic experience of World War I. There were very few examples of in-depth and radical problematizing of the human condition and war, as there were during the 1920s. The idea of the total artistic intervention and the practices of the synthesis of the arts lost their position and gave way to the new topicality of the picture. The experience from the 1920s seemed to have been forgotten. The most intense period in terms of modernist manifestations in new Bulgarian art was over.
Even though from a local perspective the decade of the 1930s was of particular importance for the acquisition of modernist practices, that period cannot be separated from the common events and dispositions. In Europe, National Socialism gained impetus; in 1933, the trial for the arson of the Reichstag was held and in 1934 there was a military coup d’état in Bulgaria, as a result of which all political parties were banned. The artistic life – solo and joint exhibitions, foreign visits and lectures on modernisms – existed in parallel, but not always in an obvious connection with what happened in politics. In 1939, for instance, the year when World War II broke out, the New Artists Society (Druzhestvo na Novite Hudozhnitsi) organized a celebration and issued a newspaper on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Paul Cezanne.
Arranged in this way, sometimes the events look puzzling, although in the artistic community there were signs indicating the changes in society. One such sign was the centralization of artistic society and the organization of annual union exhibitions brought about by the Union of the Artists’ Societies in Bulgaria (Sayus na druzhestvata na hudozhnitsite v Bulgaria), founded in 1932. Another clear political sign was the closing of the exhibition of the Caricaturists’ Society (Druzhestvo na karikaturistite) in 1935 because of caricatures against the police regime imposed after the coup d’état in 1934. Without knowing the diplomatic, military, and economic relations we would not be able to understand why the Exhibition of the Seven (Izlojba na sedemte) (seven Bulgarian artists) was organized in Belgrade in 1933, why the exhibition of the Oblik (Shape) Group from Belgrade was organized in Sofia in 1934, or why the Techni (Art) Group from Athens had their exhibition in Sofia in 1936. It seems that the only meeting point for the narratives of the political and artistic events from that time was the space of the press, the newspapers, and magazines. In 1934, for example, on these press pages, the announcements and reviews of the Oblik Group exhibition and of the joint exhibition of the Zemlya (Earth) Group and the New Artists (Novite hudozhnitsi) in “Preslav” exhibition hall, Sofia, cohabited with the solemnly announced visit of King Alexander I and Queen Maria in Sofia, with materials on the educational reforms of the new Bulgarian government, with coverage of the Balkan sports games in Zagreb, with information about the Byzantine Studies Congress in Sofia, and with a photograph of village women wearing Croatian national costumes.
The administration of artistic life in Bulgaria at the end of the 1930s lacked drastic manifestations against modernist art and its protagonists. The modernist-oriented artists were not perceived as a threat to the authority and the state. Some of them were professors at the Fine Arts Academy or occupied managerial positions in the Union of the Artists’ Societies and in the Art Work Purchase Committee at the Ministry of Education. That situation showed the special status of a whole generation of gifted and highly educated artists, placed between the echoes from the rebellion of European modernisms and the patronage of the national state.

Reflections of World War I in art in Bulgaria were multiple and contradictory. The invention of national history/mythology or expression of humanistic ideas, often through Christian symbolism and orthodox iconography, related to the local visual culture, were the most wide-spread responses. Exaltation of destruction and admiration of the machine reality through the experence of futurism and constructivism were more rare responses. The practices of surrealism remained distant for the Bulgarian milieus.
During the late 1920s and in the 1930s, in the European context of the return to order, the suggestions and impact of the exhibited and circulated images of wars most often occupied the common places of collective entity.
The so-called native art from the first half of the 1920s, as assimilation and adoption of modernist experience hybridized with local visual culture, had the most lasting impact in Bulgaria. During the 1930s a part of this modernist response was turned into easily recognizable idioms in the national artistic canon. This type of operation took place in the communist epoch as well. Different critical interpretations were part of every new usage of this artistic experience. Unfortunately even today, on the anniversary of World War I, a nationalist vein is present.

Бележки под линия | Footnotes
1 Regarding the history of the Balkans in this period see: Manchev (2000).
2 About Dimcho Debelyanov see: http://bgmodernism.com/Nauchni-statii/Sabourin (accessed Oct 12, – 2016).
3 Encyclopaedia (1980; 221-22).
4 Milev (1964: 9-75).
5 Milev (1964: 273-312).
6 Krustev (1974).
7 Krustev (1974: 19); Sirak Skitnik (Orphan Wanderer, pseudonym) (2014: 66-68).
8 Şorban (1965)
9 Encyclopaedia (1980; 469-470).
10 Konsulova-Vazova (2002: 50-56).
11 Baudrillard (1996: 552–554).
12 Smith (2002: 68, 70).
13 Baudelaire, Charles: “Le peintre de la vie moderne”, Le Figaro, 1863, Nov., 26 and 29, Dec. 3, in: Baudelaire (1868:
14 Transl. in English: Baudelaire (1964: 12).
15 Baudelaire (1964: 18).
16 For the reproduction see: Sokolova (2004: 76).
17 Encyclopaedia (1980: 262–263).
18 For the reproductions see: Bozhkov (1978: 72 –74).
19 Encyclopaedia (1987; 281–283).
20 Gerhart/Grasskamp/Matzner (2008: 174–178).
21 See: Anderson (1991).
22 Bozhkov (1978: 174–176).
23 Encyclopaedia (1987: 387); Gerhart/Grasskamp/Matzner (2008: 180).
24 Bozhkov (1978: 130–132); http://matrikel.adbk.de/05ordner/mb_1841-1884/jahr_1884/matrikel-05056
(accessed Oct 12, – 2016)
25 Encyclopaedia (1980: 144–145); Gerhart/Grasskamp/Matzner (2008: 181).
26 Krustev (1988: 41–45).
27 Ausstellung deutscher, österreichisch-ungarischer und bulgarischer Kriegsbilder 1917.
28 Kisseler/Nikolaeva (2009: 110–113).
29 Mihalcheva (1964); Christova-Radoeva (ed.) (2013).
30 Marinska (2000); Rangelova/Dimitrova (2010).
31 Encyclopaedia (1980: 391–392)
32 Encyclopaedia (1987: 480)
33 Dimitar Avramov (1989).
34 Boshev (2007); Die bulgarischen Künstler und München (2009: 164–167).
35 Dobrev (2007: 56–61).
36 Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, Band 26 (2000: 489).
37 Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, Band 34 (2002: 399).
38 Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, Band 32 (2002: 504).
39 One of them is the 1 st Bulgarian army’s exhibition in Sofia in 1918.
40 Catalogue Sculpture (2007: 76).
41 The journal Bulgarska etnologiya [Bulgarian ethnology] published a whole issue dedicated to this topic: Bulgarska
etnologiya 3 (2014); Kaser (2014: 332-348).
42 Boev (1983: 140).
43 Boev (1983: 78–81).
44 Kardjilov (2006).
45 Exhibition in the National Art Gallery, Sofia 2013, without the catalogue.
46 For the Bulgarian postcards see: Barnev/Yurukov 2006.
47 Alexander Bozhinov (1957); Nikolaeva (1999).
48 Elenkov (1998: 38).
49 Milev (1920), transl. AlbenaVitanova.
50 The poem was found out by the writer Georgi Raychev and published posthumously for the first time in
Debelyanov (1920).
51 Milev (1923: 63–64)
52 More on this topic in: Genova (2013)
53 Milev (1921: 58).
54 Milev (1920: 46).
55 Encyclopaedia Universalis (1996, Vol.12: 491–495).
56 National art gallery, Sofia, woodcut, reproduced in Vezni, 9, (1919–1920): between pp. 274-275.
57 Encyclopaedia (1980: 325–326).
58 National art gallery, Sofia, india ink.
59 Dimitar Avramov (1989).
60 Three versions of the same composition. Drawings. Reproduced in: Vezni, 5, (1919-1920): between pp. 138-139,
Trayanov (1921: page without numbering), and Krustyo Sarafov (1921: page without numbering)
61 Krustev (1974); Sirak Skitnik (2014).
62 National art gallery, Sofia, artificial stone, 42 x 105, Inv. N 29.
63 Boshev (2007).
64 National art gallery, Sofia, watercolour, 59 x 86, Inv. N 1523.
65 Sofia city art gallery, gouache, 68 x 55, Inv. N 36.
66 Marinska (1997).
67 National art gallery, Sofia, woodcut, 18,5 x 21,5, Inv. N 794.
68 Genova (1992).
69 Petrova (2003).
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