The beginnings of the collection of European artists were made with the first state purchases at the end of the 19th century. In the early 1980s, the collection was transferred from the National Gallery to the newly created National Gallery for Foreign Art (1982–2014), where it continues to be enriched, including through donations, and with works from the Triennial of Engaged Realistic Painting, and the International Competition for Young Painters, both held in Sofia, and from the International Print Biennale in Varna.
The art of the 15th–20th centuries is represented by Italian, Flemish, Dutch and French painters and sculptors. The earliest work is ‘The Baptism of Christ’ from the late 15th century, most probably created in the atelier of Andrea del Verrocchio.
Among the most famous works is ‘Lucifer’ (1891), a masterpiece by the German symbolist, Franz von Stuck (1863–1928). The painting is emblematic of the art of the late 19th century; hence its frequent participation in museum projects in different countries.
The canvases of the South Slavic artists shown in an exhibition in Sofia in 1906 form a specific group. They afford an opportunity to outline the peculiarities of the artistic achievements of the countries of the region during the establishment of modern European art. The number of works created between the two world wars by French painters and sculptors is significant.
The list of artists in the rich graphics collection includes Rembrandt, Goya, Daumier, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Kollwitz, Chagall, Dali, Picasso, De Chirico, Pascin, Kandinsky, Clavé, Vásárhelyi, and other world famous masters. They are mostly represented by graphic prints, as well as drawings, aquarelles and bibliophilic publications with illustrations.