Bashfulness and passions by Beshkov
The artist takes a peek in the brothels, bathrooms and bedrooms
7 October, 2017
Beshkov depicts lusty matrons in bathrooms, brothels and coffee establishments.
The great artist removes the barriers of clothes and human flesh to reach his characters’ deepest thoughts.
The exhibition Iliya Beshkov – Bashfulness and Passions has been opened at the Sofia City Art Gallery and will welcome visitors until 22 October. Some 180 paintings by the great artist have been provided especially for the event by the Pleven art gallery bearing his name, the National Art Gallery, and the Sofia City Art Gallery, as well as galleries in Gabrovo, Smolyan and Targovishte. Never-before-shown works from private collections are expected to attract particularly high interest.
This exhibition presents Iliya Beshkov (1901-1958) as both unparalleled master of drawing and tireless seeker of the truth about people. The carnality, deformity and even beauty (albeit less often) of his characters registers as incredibly truthful because they are all his “children”, whom he loves and good-naturedly mocks, without a trace of censure or hatred. These personages are captivating in their authenticity, unmistakably the product of an emotional process that the author has gone through. They are steeped in his love and embody his passions, weaknesses and ultimately his sorrow over their very existence. It is what makes them timeless, art critics confidently point out.
Following the military coup of 19 May 1934, when the censorship machines stopped from circulation the left-leaning newspapers in which Iliya Beshkov used to publish his unsparing political cartoons, the artist was possessed by the notion of drawing everything he was sure people did under the belief that they faced no scrutiny or exposure. He lifts the curtain on private and public bathrooms, brothels, coffee establishments, cabarets and bedrooms. This is an artist, who, having seen through the nature of the king and his political clique, embarks on a journey through the environment that produced them – the every-day life of a citizen viewed through the prism of the very passions and weaknesses that turn them into loyal subjects, always ready to excuse the vices of their ruling class.
Such an artistic quest to unmask lustful men, promiscuous widows, spouses rushing to bed, seducers, people during intercourse, is without precedent both in Bulgaria and abroad, as far as art between the two world wars is concerned.
“I love people. Nothing else moves, repulses, brings me to tears or frightens me as much as people. I penetrate through the clothes, the flesh and the bones (go as far back as ancestors, see born and unborn children) and I shudder at the sight of the pathetic human shape that its owner feeds, scratches and knows little of,” wrote Beshkov in his Red Notebook, kept in the family archive.
It is understandable that only the most innocuous of these works were displayed in the one exhibition Beshkov ever showed in his lifetime (in 1937), as well as in subsequent albums and monographs. For decades, his full-of-passion drawings waited to be introduced to the general public and their time has finally come this year, thanks to Savka Cholakova, Krasimir Iliev and the East-West publishing house.