KONSTANTIN GARNEV (1893–1966)

1/06/2021 - 25/07/2021

Vernissage on Tuesday, 1 June,  from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., in compliance with all anti-epidemic measures and with controlled access.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI2WHHMBSvU

An impressive collection of 140 watercolour works, drawings and painting canvases by Konstantin Garnev will allow anyone attracted by the fine arts to rethink Bulgarian painting as part of the world modern painting of the twentieth century. With a wealth of ideas, shapes, colours, diversity of subjects and a sense of ‘modern’, exquisite landscapes, lavish interiors, female images, nudes, his still lifes and abstract drawings are different from everything that Bulgarian art knows from the 1930s to 1960s.

Konstantin Garnev’s life journey was complex and intriguing. He left Bulgaria for deeply personal reasons. He went to study at the Munich Academy of Arts and remained in Germany for the rest of his life. In his second homeland he successfully realised himself, becoming one of the most popular and sought-after Munich artists; he found friends, companions, he met love. The fact that his works had remained in Germany after his death, today predetermines the episodic inclusion of the painter in exhibitions or on the art market in Bulgaria.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue de luxe prepared by the Victoria Gallery, in which all the included paintings are published. The presentation of the artist in the publication is by Assoc. Prof. Dr Ruzha Marinska. The two-year scientific research, collection of documents and summarization of facts have given the opportunity to the historian Pavlina Balakchieva to acquaint the connoisseurs of painting with the life of a patriot. The cover is the work of Lyudmil Veselinov. The reproductions are by the photographer Ivan Chekhlarov, known to the public for his joint work with the Victoria Gallery.

Konstantin Garnev was born on 18 January 1893 in the village of Libyahovo (today Ilinden, Gotse Delchev region), as the fourth of the seven children of Georgi and Gitsa Garnev. After graduating from high school he studied intermittently at the School of Drawing in Sofia in the period from 1912 to 1921. His teachers were Professors Petko Klisurov, Andrey Nikolov, and Hristo Berberov among others. He left the Academy without graduating. During the First World War he was seconded as a military artist. In 1922, he left for Germany and settled in Munich. He was admitted as a student of painting to the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied from 1923 to 1931, when he graduated. In the mid-1920s, he became involved in the artistic life of the Bavarian capital. Garnev’s first solo exhibition was in 1930 in Kunstverein, Munich. Between 1926 and 1934, he travelled all around Europe, visiting Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Switzerland, Southern France, Spain, Dalmatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Sicily, Paris, East Prussia, Finland, and the entire Baltic coast. He also visited North Africa, Morocco, Palestine, Turkey, Syria, and Jerusalem.

From 6 to 24 May 1934, he held his first solo exhibition in Bulgaria at the Preslav Gallery in Sofia. The exhibition was inaugurated with a speech by Prof. Ivan Lazarov, who at that time was the Director of the Academy of Arts in Sofia. The reviews were numerous and positive. The general public had the opportunity to see 45 works from different periods.

Konstantin Garnev was an extramural member of the Society of New Artists in Bulgaria. As a member of the society, he sent his works for inclusion in the general art exhibitions in Sofia. In the autumn of 1940, he arranged a representative exhibition at the Lenbachhaus (the largest private gallery in Munich), with a large gathering and in the presence of prominent representatives of German art.

During the air attacks on Munich, both studios of the artist were destroyed, as well as a large number of paintings in them and his collection of works by German and Bulgarian colleagues.

After the Second World War, he again became immersed in artistic life. As a founding member of the Union for the Protection of Fine Artists in Germany, he participated in the organisation’s annual exhibitions. In 1950 he became a member and first chairman of the Munich group Pavilion. After years of absence from Bulgarian artistic life, he was invited in 1965 to participate in the National Painting Exhibition in Sofia with his work, ‘Female Rider’.