The National Gallery collection of Bulgarian graphic art dates back to the first purchases and donations for the art collection of the Public Museum, following its establishment in 1893. Today, it totals over 17,000 items, including print graphics, drawings, and aquarelles.
In terms of stylistics, the collection provides a comprehensive overview of the leading trends in Bulgarian art during the first half of the 20th century. The etchings by Stefan Badzhov and Hristo Berberov were based on academic tradition, nuanced by symbolic or secessional influences from Europe. The early Vasil Zahariev was a distinguished representative in the field of graphics of the leading Bulgarian Native Art movement in 1920s culture. Other artists, such as Pencho Georgiev and Petar Morozov, were also guided by the native theme in its various manifestations on the levels of subject and style.
In the following decade, increasing numbers of artists chose graphics as their profession. Some, such as Preslav Karshovski, Georgi Gerasimov, Binka Vazova, Dimitar Draganov, and Anna Kramer, studied or specialised in Prague, Warsaw, and Vienna under leading European graphic artists. Their work, principally in woodcut and dry point techniques, became a conduit in Bulgarian art for the stable traditions of European graphics. The generation of the New Artists appeared on the scene, seeking out unorthodox possibilities of plastic interpretation. In the works of Pencho Georgiev and Veselin Staykov, the graphics with their characteristic expressive language of black and white complemented searches for a modern treatment. It was no coincidence that prominent painters, including Iliya Petrov, Ivan Nenov, Stoyan Venev, and Nenko Balkanski, also turned to graphic art in this regard, creating quality compositions, and making a significant contribution to the Bulgarian art of the period. Through all their works, the museum collection amply illustrates the leading, stylistically plastic trends over the decades.
Bulgarian graphics from the second half of the 20th century until today are represented in the collection by over 10,000 items, whether purchased at various exhibitions or directly from the artists, along with those acquired through donations. The stylistic, thematic, genre and technological preferences of the artists show not only the development of the visual language of this category of art, but also the influence of political, historical, and social processes during the specific period.
The National Gallery’s stock includes a rich collection of graphic works by foreign artists that reveal essential aspects of the history of fine art. The variety of the artworks, the technical methods and their application in a variety of ways, the geographical features, the impact of the different epochs on the artists’ styles; all offer many points of view to the creative specificity, the issue of identity and the development of the artistic language from the past to the present day.
Our foreign collection includes iconic names and artworks: Rembrandt and other Dutch masters, Goya, an awe-inspiring panorama of Spanish and German graphics from the 20th century, and the French tradition from the Renaissance to the present day. The section devoted to the Russian graphic school is wide-ranging, as is the presentation of the new trends in Czech, Slovak and Hungarian graphic art. The Gallery owns items of exceptional beauty, immense value, and historical significance. Other highlights in the collection feature a graphic array by artists from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and USA. With their wealth of heterogenous techniques, the works embody the technical and social aspects of their respective cultures—in both their traditional and current manifestations.
The National Gallery’s richest Asian collection is that of Japanese graphic art. It comprises works from the 18th to modern examples from the 20th centuries. All are rich in themes and techniques alike. From ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints)—well-honed productions, the fruit of the cooperation between artist, publisher, and printer—to contemporary, labour-intensive techniques such as mezzotint, the collection contains graphics from all the significant periods of Japanese printmaking.