The exhibition, ‘FROM MÁLAGA TO VIENNA, PASSING THROUGH SOFIA’, includes works by members of the Sancha family, from which some twenty artists have emerged in a little over a century. Four of them are linked, by their fate in life and their art, with Bulgaria: Francisco Sancha, José Sancha, Alicia Sancha-Nachtigall and Benjamin Nachtigall.
The exhibition is being held with the collaboration of the Spanish Cervantes Institute and the Austrian Embassy in Sofia, other cultural institutions, and artists and friends. It includes almost one hundred works by the four artists, owned by Alicia Sancha; they were selected from the stocks of the National Gallery and the Sofia City Art Gallery, as well as from private collections of friends and relatives.
Although some of its members have never met personally, the works on display allow us to trace back the continuity of their oeuvres, to see that the love for depiction has been passed on from generation to generation—from Francisco to José, from him to Alicia, and from her to Benjamin.
FRANCISCO SANCHA Y LENGO (1874–1936) was a famous Spanish artist, landscapist, illustrator and caricaturist. He was born in Málaga, Spain, the home town of Pablo Picasso, with whom he had a long-standing life bond and creative friendship, as well as joint exhibitions in Málaga, Paris and London. At the end of his life, in response to a journalist’s question about who his favourite artists were, Picasso replied: ‘Michelangelo (Miguel Ángel) and Paco Sancha’. He also worked as a scenographer with Federico García Lorca.
Over 900 of Francisco Sancha’s works are kept at the Museo ABC in Madrid and others at the Prado and Reina Sofia Museums. This exhibition includes landscapes and drawings relating to events in Bulgaria during the first decades of the twentieth century.
The Bulgarian public is most familiar with JOSÉ MARIA DE SANCHA Y PADRÓS (1908–1994), born in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain, son of Francisco Sancha. His mother, Matilde Padrós, was Spain’s first female Doctor of Philosophy and Literature. When José was four years old, his family moved to London, where he grew up among famous artists and intellectuals. In 1923, he returned to Spain and, in 1930, he held his first solo exhibition in Madrid. Awarded a scholarship, he studied and worked in Paris and London for six years. Returning to Spain in 1936, he joined the Armed Forces of the Republic during the Civil War. In 1939, he left for Moscow, where he worked productively, while his paintings were purchased by the Museum of Western Art. The following year, he married Anelya, daughter of the Bulgarian writer Lyudmil Stoyanov, who was then studying in Moscow. As a volunteer with the Spanish Battalion, he took part in the defence of Leningrad during the Great Patriotic War.
After the war, he was sent briefly to Mexico and, following the extradition of the participants in the Spanish resistance from England in 1947, he found himself in Bulgaria with his wife and their son Alan, born in Moscow. The same year, in Sofia, José Sancha held his first solo exhibition. In 1950, his daughter Alicia was born in Sofia. Throughout the 1950s, he illustrated books for children and designed posters. He was among the founders of the Satirical Theatre and the creator of its logo—‘the small mummer holding a whip’. He was the scenographer for its first productions, as well as those of the National Theatre, and was involved as an artist with the first Bulgarian films. ‘Stars’—after Angel Wagenstein’s scenarios and directed by Konrad Wolf—won an award in 1959 at the Cannes Film Festival. He succeeded in returning to Spain in 1963, where he continued to create. He died in 1994. His last solo exhibition in Spain was in 1995.
In José Sancha’s paintings and drawings, it is difficult to discover the trials and tribulations that the artist experienced throughout his life. They emit a resignation to pain and a rejection of retribution. This position of his seems to find its most accurate explanation in what his daughter Alicia observed: ‘It was easy for my father to be happy. If he saw a nice person or something tasty to eat, or the sun shining, that was enough for him. He did not need much to feel good.’
With this exhibition, art lovers will recall the modern purity of line and lyrical style, characterised by a particular void in a landscape cleared of details.
ALICIA JOSÉ SANCHA NACHTIGALL was born in Sofia. She studied scenography and painting in Berlin, under Prof. Peter Jansen. She lives in Vienna. Her husband, Helmut Nachtigall, was a lawyer. She has two sons, Aaron and Benjamin, the latter of whom is an artist.
Alicia is active in painting, drawing, illustration, scenography and computer graphics. Her works have been presented at exhibitions in Vienna, Madrid, Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt. She held an exhibition under the title: ‘Music for Birds, or When the Absurd Becomes Reality’, in the Arte Gallery in Sofia for the first time in April 2017. With her landscapes, Alicia takes us back to the Garden of Eden (Paradise): the garden that every man carries in himself.
In this exhibition she inverts the code. If, in the previous cycle, ‘Music for Birds’, man was playing in the garden for birds, the Persian carpet was laid on the grass in the garden, and thus she transferred her home paradise in nature, and now peacocks, nightingales, sparrows, monkeys, donkeys, and other animals have inhabited the interior, turning it into an earthly paradise.
BENJAMIN HELMUT NACHTIGALL, the younger member of the family Sancha, was born in Vienna in 1988. He graduated in 2015 from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, specialising in Graphic Art. Since 2011, he has regularly participated in group and solo exhibitions in Vienna and Graz. In 2012, he received the Artist of the Year award of the Austrian National Radio. Referring to his works, Günther Oberhollenzer remarked: ‘Without respect, but with much love for the material, Benjamin has mastered the technique of ceramics and invented a strange and curious world of figures. Their workmanship and content are impudent and shameless and very far from the sweet-kitsch ceramics of artistic craftsmanship. His figures with lemon or artichoke heads in his installation tell of the uniformity and isolation of our multimedia world. Depressive, but realised not without humour, these are the themes we also find in Benjamin’s major surrealistic drawings.’
Prof. Axinia Džurova