History in Paintings: 125 Years Since the Birth of Dechko Uzunov (GALLERY)

Society » CULTURE | Author: Diana Kavardzhikova |February 22, 2024, Thursday // 11:04
Bulgaria: History in Paintings: 125 Years Since the Birth of Dechko Uzunov (GALLERY) Photo: Stella Ivanova @novinite.com

Art is not science and there are no formulas for it. Instinct and intuition, so contraindicated in science, play an exceptional role here. Art starts from the imaginary, from the unknown, and sometimes the end result resembles an equation of the absurd.” Dechko Uzunov 1983

On this day in 1899, Dechko Uzunov was born in the Bulgarian town of Kazanlak - an artist, public figure and one of the greatest masters of contemporary Bulgarian painting. In 1919, he began his higher education at the State Art Industrial School (now the National Academy of Arts) in the class of Prof. Petko Klisurov.

After that, he went to Munich to specialize under Prof. Carl von Marr, where he got acquainted with the work of masters such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Diego Velazquez, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Max Liebermann and Franz von Stuck.

After returning to Bulgaria, he completed his education at the Art Academy in 1924, in the class of Prof. Stefan Ivanov. At the age of 35, he began teaching and became a professor of fine and decorative arts at the Academy of Arts in Sofia, and in 1945 he was appointed rector of the educational institution.

The artistic heritage left behind by Dechko Uzunov is extremely diverse and covers a wide range of topics, genres and types of fine art. Today, his rich work is part of the collections of many museums and art institutions in Bulgaria. He worked in a variety of fields, including painting, graphics, book illustration and layout, scenography and decorative monumental painting. In addition, he pained in the genres of portrait, nude, landscape, still life, figurative composition with historical, biblical, mythological and contemporary subjects.

Dechko Uzunov also painted murals in various public buildings and institutions: in the Church of Saint John the Forerunner in his native Kazanlak, in the lobby of the Kazanlak Hotel, as a gift to his fellow citizens, in the Karlovo House of Culture, in the Stara Zagora Opera House, in the National Opera House, The National Theatre, National Palace of Culture and the Courthouse in Sofia. He also made numerous illustrations for books by famous Bulgarian writers, including Angel Karaliychev, Chicho Stoyan, Yordan Stubel, Atanas Dushkov, Emiliyan Stanev. In 1976 he was elected president of the International Association for Plastic Arts AIAP at UNESCO, and two years later he was elected an academician of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. In 1986, Dechko Uzunov died in his Sofia studio.


At the end of the 1960s, an idea appeared of creating a house museum "Dechko Uzunov", after the artist himself, already at the peak of his creative maturity, visiting his hometown, did not find his home. It is thought his family house was damaged or destroyed by severe weather conditions after being abandoned for so long.

Together with the local administration, a decision was made to restore it according to the memories of the artist himself. This is how his painting "Memory of the Native House" was born, today one of the author's key works in the collection of the Kazanlak Art Gallery. In 1987, the House Museum was opened for visitors, but Dechko Uzunov did not live to see the opening. The artist's wife, Olga Uzunova, according to his will, provided the gallery with 93 of his works, some of which are included in the gallery's permanent exhibition.

Dechko Uzunov "Accumulations" 28.3.2023 — ∞ permanent exhibition of the gallery

“Memory of the Native House” 1970

Only the memory of it remained, which Dechko Uzunov returned to in the 1970s to immortalize it in his canvas Memory of the Native House. When the idea was born of building his native house anew, albeit in a completely different location in Kazanlak, Dechko Uzunov also created a number of quick sketches with the internal layout of the building, which were used in the preparations of the blueprints”.

“Ritual” 1975

Acquired from the artist in 1979.

“For Dechko Uzunov, the beginning of the 1970s is connected with the entry into the sphere of great parallels, which only a few are capable of dealing with, between the epic and the human, the monumental and the intimate, the biblical and the contemporary, history, memory and sanctity”, noted the art critic Marin Dobrev.

The Rose Valley 1970s

Donated by Olga Uzunova in 1987.

“In my latest works, which may look at first glance like painterly abstractions and in which I sometimes bring several worlds into one place without contradicting each other, I return to my childhood dreams. A person is sometimes as defencelessly small in them, lost in nature as in my childhood dreams I imagined myself in real life. The difference now is that I see the land and the people from the above, or from what you critics call it – a bird’s eye view. As if I’m observing everything from these clouds, which were reflected then in the little bit of mirror in my hands.” The painting “Rose Valley”, which is also the largest format canvas that is part of the collection of the Art Gallery Kazanlak, seems to reflect precisely this maturity of the artist.

“Mariana” 1956

Donated by the artist through the “13 Centuries of Bulgaria” NEF in 1984.

Written by Diana Kavardzhikova in collaboration with Art Gallery Kazanlak.

Photos by Stella Ivanova.

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