Garden of Spirituality reveals Mount Athos in Sofia City Art Gallery

Classics and modernists depict their raptures of the Holy Mountain's monasteries

Photo: BGNES

The Sofia City Art Gallery displays works by great Bulgarian artists dedicated to Mount Athos. The exhibition is titled Garden of Spirituality and presents the Holy Mountain's monasteries and cultural heritage, seen through the eyes of Bulgarian artists from the early to mid-20th century. Among them are Ivan Lazarov, Dechko Uzunov, Tsanko Lavrenov, Konstantin Shtarkelov, Vasil Zahariev, etc. Having visited Mount Athos for one reason or another, each of them recreated in their own style their various impressions of its monasteries and relics, the everyday life of monks, and the place's rich cultural heritage.

Seen from a broader perspective, in the context of Bulgarian art from the first half of the last century, the presentation of Mount Athos has turned into a theme reflecting some of the significant developments in Bulgarian art during this period. Firstly, it is the artists' interest in antiquities, old art, and Christian heritage, which had a great impact on the rise of Bulgarian modernism and the Native Art movement. The notions of visions, miracles and saints, of churches and antiquities, captured the imagination of artists such as Ivan Milev and Ivan Penkov, some of whose works are also included in the exhibition. Another development in Bulgarian art reflected in Mount Athos-themed artworks is the focus on history and the formation of the national consciousness. This selection of artworks helps us shed light on significant processes and trends in Bulgarian art.

The exhibition includes a variety of works, namely Mount Athos prints dating from the period of the Bulgarian National Revival, copies of murals, drawings and sketches, paintings and graphic artworks representing views of the Holy Mountain. It presents works owned by the Sofia City Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Art, the National History Museum, the National Church Museum of History and Archaeology, the National Museum of Literature, the State Archives Agency, the Zograf Monastery Commission, museums of regional history, city art galleries throughout the country, the Union of Bulgarian Artists and private collections.

The exhibits also include a copy of the famous wonder-working Phanuel icon of St George, by Tsanko Lavrenov, which is kept at the St Tsar Boris the Baptiser Church in the city of Plovdiv. Archive materials, historical information and documentaries included in the exhibition allow viewers to get acquainted with the history of Mount Athos and with research on it.

The team that prepared the exhibition includes the art critic and director of Sofia City Art Gallery Adelina Fileva as well as Lyuben Domozetski, Neda Zhivkova, Svetla Georgieva and Nikoleta Gologanova. The exhibition will remain open to visitors of the Sofia City Art Gallery until 14 February 2021 and can be visited in compliance with all anti-epidemic measures.

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