Bencho Obreshkov: the touch of the master
His artworks are among the most expensive ever sold and the most frequently faked
14 January, 2012
Paintings by Bencho Obreshkov are the highlight of the retrospective exhibition at the Sofia City Art Gallery on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary since the founding of the Society of New Artists (1931-1944). Which is only natural given his leading position in Bulgarian modernism in the 1930s. The past master is presented in three paintings, emblematic of his lifetime career: the breathtaking Portrait of Miss Violet from Nice; a typical of him Still Life with Fish, part of a series and a Seascape with Boats. Bencho Obreshkov (1899-1970) is among the best sold and the most frequently faked Bulgarian painters. His artworks are not offered on the market any more, as they have been part of private and gallery collections for a long time now. Obreshkov was lucky enough to win recognition during his lifetime. A prolific and productive artist, his paintings sold well both in Bulgaria and abroad. He has created both oil paintings and watercolours and is said to have shown reluctance to part with his canvases. He made wall paintings in Bulgaria and Germany. His father was an itinerant trader in glasses. His artistic gift came, in all probability, from his maternal grandfather, who was a baker and a famous painter of horse-drawn carts. Obreshkov graduated under P. Klisurov and I. Angelov from the Sofia Academy of Fine Arts in 1920. He then studied painting in Dresden (1920-1925) under Oskar Kokoschka and Otto Dix, which had a significant influence on his formation as a modernist, who launched the ideas of expressionism in Bulgaria. Then he trained sculpture in Paris under Antoine Bourdelle, Auguste Rodin's assistant. He came to know Henri Matisse and was strongly influenced by the Paris School. His Lady's Portrait received Grand Prix, a high-profile award granted to artists, at the Paris Exposition Internationale 1937. During the economic crisis of 1931-1936 he earned his living as a bank clerk.He suffered a couple of strokes of misfortune. In the air-raids of Sofia of 1944 the building, where he lived and worked, was reduced to rubble. His family survived as they hid in the basement, but 350 works of his perished. Two years after the Communist coup of 1944, he along with other Bulgarian artists was denounced as a 'formalist'. In 1956 Polish journalist Andrzej Boguslawski published and interview with him. As a result Bencho Obreshkov was banned from the Union of Bulgarian Artists and from either selling or displaying his works. In those hard times he designed wine and champagne labels.
Motherhood as interpreted by the artist.
Photo: Private archive
Portrait of Miss Violet from Nice.