Maud Lewis – the naive soul of Nova Scotia

Do you know where Nova Scotia is?

Nova Scotia is one of the Eastern provinces of Canada, on the Atlantic. It’s a peninsula with many small offshore islands. The capital of Nova Scotia is Halifax, a city that is notoriously known for powerful explosions during the both world wars.

In Nova Scotia, in the small town of Digby, in a small wooden house with thin walls and only one room, without water inside and with no electricity, in 1970 year, at the age of 67 years died alone an incredibly strong and cheerful woman – the artist Maud Lewis (1902-1970).

This little thin woman, physically handicapped and tormented by strong rheumatoid arthritis, who has lived in incredible poverty, bordering on misery, leaved to the world a huge number of cheerful pictures painted with the eyes of a happy child.

The naive art of this woman is amazing!

She doesn’t even have a complete secondary education (poverty forces her to leave the school barely graduating from grade 5). Her only teacher in painting was her mother, who has shown Maud how to make Christmas cards for selling to their neighbours.

I will not show you here her beautiful winter paintings, with snowed pines, happy children on their sleighs and deers with smart sad eyes. I know you’ll be fascinated by them. They are wonderful, with a typical Northern beauty.

I will not show you here her magical landscapes of the Atlantic seashore, with the lighthouses, the coastal cliffs and the seagulls talking each to other, perched on two adjacent stones. They are wonderful, with a typical Northern beauty.

Look at this colourful landscape sealed the short Canadian summer. What a sunny splendour and serenity. A fast-passing beauty, like life itself. It is as it is.

You can see her paintings in Artnet.

Ivan Rabuzin – my favourite Croatian naivist

In the recent years I have discovered for myself the naive art. I am particularly impressed by the Croatian naive art, and among the Croatian naive painters I consider my favorite Ivan Rabuzin (1921-2008).

Born in a small village in the Croatian Zagorje and trained to become a carpenter, this huge talent becomes one of the flagmen of the European naive art.

His works were displayed in many cities worldwide, just to mention Paris, New York, Tokyo, Sao Paolo, Milan, Amsterdam, Zurich, Bratislava, Oslo, Munich, Firenze, Geneva, Bern, Hamburg, Cologne but not only.

I must admit that I was so fascinated by his works that for a while I have copied his pictures into the web site of my company (without asking permission from his heirs, which I am very sorry about!)

Ivan Rabuzin is one of the painters who inspired me to start painting again after more than 30 years of interruption.

I’m thinking why exactly he is my muse? Perhaps because he is a painter of the Balkan nature, in its original, pure and untouched by industrialisation and urbanisation. And I am a child of the Balkans, too.

Look at this picture. It‘s called Orehovec Hills.

In the green wooded hills there are two groups of houses. They are wonderful, those houses, neat and welcoming. Each group is located on a separate hill and is surrounded by a dense green wall. The only way out of the wall is the entrance and the exit for the houses.

No one knows if these houses are part of the same village, or if they are two separate villages? How can one get from the one group to the other? Isn’t there a shorter way? No one knows the answer...

The fields and the meadows around are so fresh and green. The eternal sky is spread over the hills, dotted with many little clouds.

If you want to have a look at the works of Ivan Rabuzin, visit his art portal created by his family or the web site of the Croatian Museum of Naive Art.

Georges Papazoff – the Bulgarian Dali

Georges Papazoff (1894-1972) is a Bulgarian painter born in the city of Yambol, who spent almost all his life in France.

He is the flagman of the Bulgarian modern fine arts. Throughout his life he experimented in different styles – expressionism, abstractionism, symbolism. George Papazoff is a painter of world dimension. The Bulgarian Salvador Dali.

While working in Paris, he is part of the world‘s art elite. George Papazoff meets and talks with Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee.

The life of the genius is never easy.

In parallel with the brilliant development in his art, he began to face ungratefulness and envy in Paris, which is why he settled in the province and worked there in loneliness.

George Papazoff was rediscovered by the Bulgarian art historain Andrei Nakov, who lives and works in France. Andrei Nakov succeeded to convince him to return and start exhibiting again in Paris.

The art of George Papazoff is extremely expressive.

His works immerse you in a sea of good feelings, nice emotions and thoughts. Unique for him is the amazing closeness to nature and the warm presence of the heaven, the sea, the field, the man. Maybe an imprint from the childhood spent in Bulgaria. And for sure – an incredibly strong personality and a great talent.

Have a look at this painting called Trois figures.

A man and two women on the ground. He’s lying down, they’re half-seated to him. Is he dead or is he asleep? Isn’t he just dreaming and staring at the stars? Are they grieving for him or are they rivals for his love?

The unknown depth of the human soul, enclosed by gentle contours.

Not all equations in this life are solvable. Some equations have more than one solution.

If you want to see some of his works, you may look at Wikiart.

Mario Zhekov and the energy of the Sea

Mario Zhekov (1898-1955) is the most popular Bulgarian marine artist.

Born in Stara Zagora, the center of the Thracian valley, he has been experiencing an irresistible attraction to the Sea throughout his life.

He has been dreaming of travelling on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea and studied painting in France. Mario Zhekov spent most of his life in travels and painting in the Mediterranean countries – France, Italy, Croatia, Turkey, Greece. He also left many paintings of the Bulgarian coast and the Black Sea.

One of the few Bulgarian artists who became popular outside the country while alive. He made solo exhibitions in Belgrade, Zagreb, Bucharest, Budapest.

In the Bulgarian fine arts, Mario Zhekov is one of the sad examples of interrupted creative development by the political changes in 1944 year.

Before the changes, the Bulgarian art critics regarded him as a marine artist with European dimension. In the years after the changes he travelled and painted less and less. He worked in his last decade as a theatrical painter and designer of tourist brochures and advertisements and died quite young.

The sea in his paintings is not just an artist’s object. Warm and welcoming. Angry and frowning. Dreaming in a summer nap. The Sea is a living organism.

I hesitated which of his works to choose for my art essay about him. I chose this one, because I like how the waves are coming one after another closer and closer.

Do you feel the energy of the water and the wind? Do you hear the noise of the Sea?

The island seems to be approaching as a ship towards you, moving away from the other end of the bay. The sky is a tense reflection of the Sea.

If you want to see the works of Mario Zhekov, visit the permanent exhibition of the City gallery in his hometown Stara Zagora.

Jules Paskin in the world of reality

Jules Paskin (1885 – 1930) is one of the artists that I have liked since my childhood.

I have seen mostly his watercolours, with very soft contours and warm nuances. I did not know many things about his life, except that he was born in Bulgaria and his family emigrated when he was a little.

What have I recently learnt about his life?

Jules Paskin moved to London and then to USA to avoid the service in the Bulgarian army during the First World War.  After the war he returned to Paris and became one of the symbols of the Montparnasse artistic community. That is why, in the art world he is mostly known as American-French painter (born in Bulgaria).

Among his friends in Paris were one of my favourite writers Ernest Hemingway and Modigliani.

Jules Paskin is the painter of the world of reality.

As a famous bohemian, prone to alcoholism, he is a good connoisseur of restaurants in Paris and a friend of many prostitutes.

Parisian prostitutes were his preferred models. Many of his paintings are like photographs, sealed their tired bodies, hands and eyes. It’s an interesting fact that he paintеd nude female bodies mostly in graphics and with oil.

But look at his watercolours if you want to feel the fragile soul of Jules Paskin.

This is portrait of Luci Krohg, the second loved woman in his life. He split his apartment and heart equally between his wife and Luci. What a tender beauty and sadness.

Drowned by alcoholism and depression due to disapproval of his latest works, he committed suicide at 45 years in the atelier.

Jules left Lucy a message on the wall written with his blood.

On the day of his funeral, all the restaurants in Montparnasse were closed. Thousands of his friends walked dressed all in black three miles behind his coffin, from his atelier to the cemetery of Montparnasse.

Klimbo melody from the childhood

For many of us born from 1960 to the end of the last century in Bulgaria and grew up here, Kliment Denchev – Klimbo (1939-2009) is the tale that was opening the door to our childish dreams almost every night at ten to eight.

Looking at the long list of movies and theatre performances with his participation in Wikipedia, I remember some of the movies he was playing in. I remember more clearly his warm voice and his always smiling bearded face, than the particular character he played in the movie.

It’s the magic of growing up.

The magical mercy to forget all the superfluous things and to leave only the good ones. The smile. The eyes. The voice.

And those simple and childishly naive paintings, which he was drawing night by night on window glass in the children’s evening show “Good Night, kids”.

Good night, little and not so little kids. Do you remember Klimbo?

Georgi Baev and the Sea

Georgi Baev (1924-2007) is among my favourite Bulgarian painters.

He is born in the seaside town of Bourgas, grew up there and spent his lifetime painting the Sea. I love the sea and I’m interested specifically in the painters who love the sea. Although Bulgaria is a sea country, there are not so much marine painters here.

In his works loneliness and masculine strength could be felt.

The colours are saturated and even their nuances are strong. The Sea is calm, without excitement and with no waves, and is somehow unnecessary quiet. The boats are off the water. The sailors are gone. The houses stay lonely as abandoned, without people around them. Lacking movement, lacking perspective.

There’s quiet sadness in his works.

Why was he so sad and lonely? Who was so much irritated with his quiet pictures? Why was his atelier lit in 1983 with so many paintings burned?

Unanswered questions.

Suzanne Valadon – the model that became a famous painter

Life can bring wonderful surprises even to people who think they know the history of art well. One such beautiful surprise to me is the French artist Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938).

She had a long and not very easy life, according to our today ideas of happiness. Born into a poor family, she moved to Paris very young to seek work. She has been doing very well as a circus acrobat until a severe trauma because of which she had to leave the circus for ever.

And since Suzanne was beautiful, her natural development in Paris was to become a model.

There had been hundreds of girls posing as models in Paris. Hundreds of them are for us simply unknown models drawn on the paintings of famous artists.

Exactly in such situations, the Fortune gives a chance to strong people to show what they can do.

Very few of the model girls have had the chance to be painted by and become a muse for all Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Modigliani. The four left us magnificent portraits of Suzanne and painted her in various poses, out and in atelier.

Unlike many other model girls, Suzanne became a famous painter herself learning while posing, watching at the hands of the painter.

She painted hundreds of landscapes, flowers, still life and portraits that can be compared to the best works of post-impressionists, her teachers. Suzanne is the first woman painter admitted to the National Society of Fine Arts in France.

I especially like her paintings in which she paints women. Suzanne paints woman’s face, hands and body in natural poses, with no ideal forms, with no embellishment. But not only that – the woman in her works is not just a beautiful object, painted to express the author’s emotions or ideas. The woman takes a central place in the Suzanne’s works –  paints, reads, thinks, plays music. She is an artist herself with position in life.

I like the women confidence and serenity in the Suzanne’s paintings.

You can take a look at Suzanne Valadon’s works in Wikiart.

Suli Seferov – the beautiful and sad Balkan story

For an artist, born and raised in Bulgaria, the heart of the Balkans, it is probably logical to paint fairy tales. We that belong to the 1940s and 1960s generations here grew up with the magic tales of our grandparents, mixed on this territory as bread.

Maybe that’s why so much and for so long I like Suli Seferov (born 1943) and his wonderful paintings. Each of his works brings me back in the years and slows my breath.

Soft and pastel colours. Mysterious and subtle shapes.

The animals from our legends and the animals from the old Bulgarian daily life in one. Flying white horses, donkeys, cocks singing, owls, magpies, white doves…

The flowers and the fruits of our lovely Balkan nature, so beautiful, so precious. The grapes, the rosehips, the sunflowers, the olives, the apple (of sin?)…

The kids – the beautiful fruits of our Love…

I myself have grown up with these tales. I remember how my rounded and slightly limping grandmother was telling me and my cousins such endless stories until we all felt asleep. She was speaking so sweet and charming that I remembered every word of her.

Will we succeed in bringing our fairy heritage to the future?

You could have a look at the works of Suli Seferov at his web site.

Tsanko Lavrenov and the roots of the modern Bulgarian culture

We Bulgarians are very proud of the cultural achievements of our ancient nation. Icons, old urban architecture, murals, woodcarving are among the most famous of Bulgaria’s fine art achievements abroad.

The truth is, however, that very few Bulgarian artists became known abroad if they have not been connected to the former official art management system or had refused to make some kind of cultural propaganda with their art. 

Rarely their works were shown at exhibitions abroad. In many cases they did not participated in exhibitions in the country.

In the collections of very few world famous museums and galleries there are paintings of Bulgarian artists from the second half of 20th century.

Exceptions are those that have emigrated in their youth and have long lived abroad.

Tsanko Lavrenov  (1896-1978) is a name in the fine arts that every nation can be proud of.

Although he is a loved and popular artist in Bulgaria, I think we owe him a lot. He belongs to that group of artists who have enriched our fine art and have transferred it from the usual Orthodox and Balkan-centred spirituality to spirituality and culture with a European dimension.

Tsanko Lavrenov has been inspired all his life by the old Bulgarian monasteries, by the beautiful houses and the steep rocky shortcuts of his native Plovdiv.

I especially like this picture of Tsanko Lavrenov called “Little Night Music”, obviously inspired by the great composer. In the courtyard of a house belonging to a famous wealthy family, in the heart of the old Plovdiv, an orchestra plays Mozart in the moonlight. It is 1967 year.

What is more eloquent than this message?

Have a look at the magnificent works of Tsanko Lavrenov at the web page of the Plovdiv City Art Gallery.