Paintings on war theme
In the forthcoming 2023 Christmas Auction of Enakor Auction House, we will offer you a series of works by a painter whose art is familiar to every Bulgarian. His paintings have been present in all textbooks on Bulgarian history during the last 100 years, because the main theme of his artistic pursuits was historical painting. He is one of the most remarkable Bulgarian artists in this visual genre. Yes, we are talking about Dimitar Gyudzhenov.
Our auction, however, will include paintings not of the famous historical painting, but of another, more universal theme, which no less interested the artist and in which he is also an acknowledged master – war painting. His works on this theme are less well known, rarely exhibited, and even more rarely offered on the art market. Moreover, they are no less valuable than historical ones – for some experts they are even more valuable.
The battle painting of Dimitar Gyudzhenov
Gyudzhenov’s war-themed paintings produce a very strong impact because they are not influenced by the demands of patriotic education. Based on personal experiences and in freedom from ideological constraints, they were created in the times when the author was a soldier, a military painter in the Bulgarian Army, a participant in the Balkan Wars, in the First and Second World Wars. The freedom in which the young artist creates his battle painting radiates from every stroke, from every mark, from the dynamics of the compositions, from the poses and gestures of the figures, from the great variety of moods, emotions and experiences of the characters whose figures are masterfully represented on the canvases.
Dimitar Gyudzhenov shared about his youth and his wartime experience as an artist in an interview, record from the “Golden Fund” of the Bulgarian National Radio in 1978:
“My young years passed through the flames of the Balkan War and the First World War. In those years the whole nation was in military service, me too. To draw sketches and pictures of the war actions was my duty as a military painter. I was a witness of crucial battles for Bulgaria. I observed living compositions of soldiers, horses, cannons. I experienced first-hand the tensions and trials of war.
On the other hand, my two-year stay and studies in Paris in 1913 and 1914 at the National Academy under Prof. Fernand Cormon, a master of historical painting, had its effect. I cannot ignore the names of Yaroslav Veshin, Anton Mitov, Tsenо Todorov – the great masters of the brush and my first teachers in painting. Soon my fascination with war subjects grew into a deep interest in history painting. … This turned my art into a public duty. … I did not look for originality, art for art’s sake, but for the clarity of expression of an idea.” (Kolev 2021; Petrova 2021).
What works by Dimitar Gyudzhenov you can acquire in our Christmas auction
We offer watercolours, oil paintings and pencil drawings with representations from the Balkan War and the First World War. Many of the works are etudes and sketches, in varying degrees of completion; several are fully finished stand-alone artworks. Among the pieces are some that are created on the battlefield. Others were made later in preparation for Gyudzhenov’s large canvases of battle scenes from the First World War.
A pencil drawing is particularly precious. It is a preparatory drawing, with an identical composition, landscape, figures, attributes, objects and details, of Gyudzhenov’s famous 1937 oil canvas “Withdrawal of Artillery to Gurgulyat”, with a battle scene from the First World War. The painting, for which the drawing is a preparatory one, belongs to the Fine Arts Collection of the National Museum of Military History in Sofia and is on display in its permanent exhibition.
No less valuable are the watercolours offered at the auction. They present in full the exceptional mastery of Dimitar Gyudzhenov in the artistic representation of multifigural compositions. Scenes with horses, artillery, soldiers and officers in full battle armour are depicted, presented in dynamic moments of movement or attack.
Among the oil etudes and sketches there are painted both dynamic scenes of combat units in attack or on the move, and more static scenes such as officers’ meetings, combat duty and food preparation in the field kitchen. A few landscapes, and especially a remarkable sketch of a World War I battle pack, attract attention.
War themes in art for us today
In times like our present, in which military conflicts have flared up with tremendous force one after another in the heart of civilization, with the potential to become a new global conflict, the forgotten theme of war (and world wars) has become unexpectedly relevant, acute and painful.
The works of Dimitar Gyudzhenov in our Christmas auction will attract not only the experts and fans of battle painting. Many other art lovers will also be moved, for we all feel affronted by the terrible forgotten issues and values that war draws out and nails to the surface of human living and culture:
– What is good and evil, what is the price of life and death, what is civilization and what is its fate;
– What is humanity, compassion, sacrifice, ideals, heroism, agony, death, fear, loss, destruction, courage, feat, victory;
– and many other words and questions, dusted and weathered by time.
Both the connoisseurs of battle paintings, and the many other art lovers who are affected by the universal questions that war raises, could acquire the paintings with the visual answers-experiences of Dimitar Gyudzhenov included in our Christmas Auction – because the works are offered at very affordable starting prices.
Part of the mission of Enakor Auction House is that Bulgarian fine art to reach and stay with its admirers and for them to grow – both in Bulgaria and around the world.
The traditional Christmas auction of Auction house Enakor will take place on 14 December. The full catalog with all items featured in the auctions is coming soon.
Rossitsa Gicheva-Meimari, PhD
– Avramov 2016. Avramov, Dimitar. Gudjenov – forgotten and unknown. In: Portal for Culture, Art and Society, ed. “Stefan Dobrev, published on 07.07.2016. – Аврамов 2016: Аврамов, Димитър. Гюдженов – забравен и непознат. В: Портал за култура, изкуство и общество, изд. „Стефан Добрев“, публикувано на 07.07.2016. Link. Visited 15.10.2023
– Bozhkov 1978: Bozhkov, Atanas. Bulgarian Historical Painting. Т. 2. Sofia, 1978. – Божков 1978: Божков, Атанас. Българската историческа живопис. Т. 2. София, 1978.
– Dobrev 2021: Dobrev, Marin, 2021. Opening of an exhibition dedicated to the 139th anniversary of the birth of Dimitar Gyudzenov. In. Dolap.bg, published on 02.08.2021. – Добрев 2021: Добрев, Марин, 2021. Откриване на изложба, посветена на 139 години от рождението на Димитър Гюдженов. В: Ранчева, Росица, Откриха изложба с творби на Димитър Гюдженов (1891-1979). Dolap.bg, публикувано на 02.08.2021. Link. Visited 15.10.2023
– Kolev 2021: Kolev, Yoan, 2021. Dimitar Gyudzhenov – the painter who chronicled Bulgarian national memory. Bulgarian National Radio, 2021. – Колев 2021: Колев, Йоан, 2021. Димитър Гюдженов – художникът летописец на националната ни памет. В: Българско национално радио, 2021. Link. Visited 18.10.2023.
– Collections: Collections of the National Museum of Military History in Sofia. – Колекции: Колекции на Национален военноисторически музей в София. Link. Visited 17.10.2023
– Marinska 1996: Marinska, Ruzha. The 20s in Bulgarian Art. Sofia, 1996. – Маринска 1996: Маринска, Ружа. 20-те години в българското изобразително изкуство. Фондация “Отворено общество”, София, 1996.
– Petrova 2021: Petrova, Zornitsa, 2021. An Artist and the War. In: MOVE.BG, published 15 October 2021 – Петрова 2021: Петрова, Зорница, 2021. Един художник и войната. В: MOVE.BG, публикувано на 15 октомври 2021. Link. Visited 15.10.2023.