Having caused thousands of Bulgarians and foreigners to stand up to listen to the Bulgarian anthem, a two-time Olympic champion in Graeco-Roman wrestling and winner of numerous sports medals and honours, Boyan Radev, has inspired us for five decades with respect in yet another sphere where he has reached the highest peaks—that of the art collector. The result of a collaboration between the National Gallery and Boyan Radev has been a series of exhibitions in one of the Palace galleries. After exhibitions devoted to Atanas Yaranov and Vasil Barakov, pictorial works by Dechko Uzunov are now presented here.
The choice of artist is not accidental and has a curious prehistory dating back to the late 1960s. Every day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., a colourful company used to gather at the café of the Sofia Hotel (today’s Radisson)—including, among others, Mister Senko, Vasil Stoilov, Dechko Uzunov, and Lea Ivanova. Boyan Radev was also frequently among them. One day, following a chance encounter, the artist Stoyan Iliev presented him with a painting and was quite sceptical of the famous athlete’s comment that he would also ask Dechko Uzunov for a painting. This, however, became fact within only a few hours. Dechko Uzunov immediately responded to his friend’s words: ‘I am already a collector and you must support me.’ One more painting! After five days—fifteen paintings by famous artists whom the highly respected Dechko Uzunov had recommended to make a gesture to the great Boyan Radev…
DECHKO UZUNOV (22 February 1899, Kazanlak–26 April 1986, Sofia) was an artist whose powerful talent in painting, monumental art, drawing, scenography, applied graphics, and decorative art was very highly esteemed, both in Bulgaria and abroad.
In 1919, he entered the Academy of Arts in Sofia, where he completed the general course under Prof. Petko Klisurov. After a one-year specialisation under Prof. Carl von Marr at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, he returned to Sofia and continued his education in Prof. Stefan Ivanov’s special course in painting, graduating with honours in 1924. A member of the Native Art Society, he worked exceptionally actively, showing his works at numerous solo and group exhibitions at home and abroad, among them the International Expo in Paris (1937) and the Venice Biennale (1942, 1948, 1964).
His creative activities enjoyed public recognition throughout his life and combined with a number of other important commitments. He was a teacher of painting, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Rector of the Academy of Arts, Director of the National Art Gallery, Chairman of the Union of Bulgarian Artists, President of the International Association for Plastic Arts (AIAP). The centenary of his birth was included in UNESCO’s 1999 calendar celebrating great personalities and events of a worldwide dimension.
This presentation of Dechko Uzunov is an opportunity for the works he created in the late 1920s until the mid 1980s to become known to the public through the joint efforts of one of his keenest collectors and the team of the National Gallery.