Articles From the Experts

A compendium for arts and antiques enthusiast

The Spring Auction 2024 of the Enakor Auction House is dedicated to jewelry, but there is another highlight – thirty works of fine art, many of which can no doubt also be described as “jewels”. Most of them are works by Bulgarian artists, with two exceptions, one of which is by the ingenious Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669).

Graphic works at auction

A contemporary graphic print (most likely from the 20th century) of a New Testament-themed work by Rembrandt is included in the Easter auction, in honour of the greatest Christian celebration – the Holy Resurrection. It is one of the great Dutch painter’s highly esteemed prints, “The Three Crosses” (“Christ Crucified between Two Thieves”), etching and dry point, Phase III of V, 1653.

Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Three Crosses”, 1653
Evgeny Bosyatsky, “Intimate”, 1987

Among the three works of Bulgarian artists in the auction, which are not paintings, we would like to highlight the lithograph, which we have named “Intimate”* by the master of erotic line and shape Evgeny Bosyatsky (1929-2009). It is from his famous and much demanded erotic series, but is an example of the more modest and romantic drawings – young lovers excitedly dreaming of the intimate experience they foresee coming their way.

Paintings by modern Bulgarian artists at auction

Georgi Popov-John, “Portrait of a Child”

The Bulgarian painters we have selected are in their majority contemporary artists who have studied, been formed and developed in the period of late socialism and transition, with a few exceptions. One of the greatest pearls among the paintings at auction is the oil on canvas portrait by Georgi Popov-John (1906-1960), who had worked in the first half of the 20th century. His work closely links to European artistic processes, as he studied and worked for many years in France and Sweden. He appears very rarely on the art market and even more rarely with a masterpiece of his famous portraits. We offer an extremely exquisite, delicate and psychologically expressive “Portrait of a Child”, which will undoubtedly capture the attention of connoisseurs and collectors.

His work combines both the techniques and style of the “Native Art” group of artists to which he belonged and the modern European styles, which he knew closely and often applied. A blue-eyed blond child with an exquisitely styled Art Deco hairdo, wearing a dark blue velvet dress adorned asymmetrically with white lace, is sitting a little uncomfortably on a large and low bed. White goatskins cover the bed, but the child is put on an exquisite Art Deco bedspread with a purple base and geometric decoration in orange and yellow. With great skill in the construction of the body posture and rendering the facial expression, the famous master of portraits Georgi Popov-John conveys the rather sad and anxious mood of the beautiful child.

Genko Genkov, “Landscape in Red”

The most precious brilliant among the works of paintings at auction is “Landscape in Red” by Genko Genkov (1923-2006) – an artist who was formed before the middle of the 20th century, but whose work stands beyond any limits of time and space. An extreme rebel to the point of insanity, an avant-garde painter at the time of socialism, he never painted under the dictate of socialist realism, which is why he cannot be classified elsewhere than in the group of the jewels of European modernism in Bulgaria.

The picture we offer is probably from the early period of Genkov. It is a fantastical landscape in red-orange-cerulean shade, worked with three-dimensional layering of different shades of oil paint, and then with wide and deep scratches on the pasty layering, bringing out the shades from the lower layers. The composition develops in two plans. Two violet-black narrow and tall bare trees in the foreground flank the compositional centre in the second plan. The second plan is occupied by three small single-storey buildings, adjacent to each other, flanked to the front and back by another pair of bare trees with larger crowns.

The composition is very soundly structured. The semantic emphasis is in the multiple verticals of the trunks and branches of the trees, which signify the direction of movement from bottom to top. Two horizontals delineate the terrain of the plans. Contrast is provided by the diagonal shadow of the rightmost tree, which points to the central image of the buildings and finds continuation in the sloping sides of their roofs. Perspective is broken, the distance between the plans is severely shortened, and the two plans are almost arranged floor to floor above each other, further enhancing the sense of upward movement. The trees in the second plan are close in height to those in the first, while the buildings are greatly reduced in size and in relation to the trees appear as large as doghouses, like boxes.

The bare trees are the living beings, the personified and animated images that replace the human figures in Gencov’s world. Fuelled by the cerulean red fiery energy, these bare, burnt, seemingly lifeless trees appear to rise from the fire and rush to grow upwards to heights unseen in the pictorial field. In their upward rush, they intercept and ascend the windowless box-buildings, reminiscent of a small village church or ancient temple treasuries that enshrined men’s votives to the gods.

Paintings by contemporary Bulgarian artists at auction

Vasil Stoev, Distancing, 1999  
 Vasil Stoev, “Twilight”*, 2002

Of the prominent contemporary Bulgarian artists included in the auction with paintings, we have chosen to present Vasil Stoev (1950), Edmond Demirdzhian (1951-2009), Andrey Daniel (1952-2020), Milko Bozhkov (1953) and Greddy Assa (1954). They have a lot in common. They have done many exhibitions and are well known not only in Bulgaria. Their works are in the collections of world art museums and galleries, as well as in private collections in Bulgaria and abroad. They are of the same generation – all were born between 1950 and 1954. They studied almost at the same time at the Academies of Art, had the same professors, and this is evident in the closeness in styles, techniques, colouring, in the preferred themes of their works. The similarities in their imaginary worlds are quite evident in the specific works that are included in the auction. The title of the text, “World of Dreams”, is a common theme of their works (to which I add the erotic daydream of Evgeny Bosyatsky and the fantastical landscape of Genko Genkov). The majority of them are presented by works in an extremely abstract style, some with elements of surrealism and/or cubism.

Greddy Assa, Composition, 1997
Milko Bozhkov, Composition, 1991
 Edmond Demirdzhian, Composition, 1994

An exception to the extremely abstract styles and mannerisms is the work of Andrey Daniel, presenting a very concrete landscape from a specific village, painted at one of the famous plein air workshops organized by the Lessedra Gallery in the winter of 1998 – “Landscape from Lessidren I“, 1998. At first glance, especially from an online photograph, the work may appear quite ordinary and realistic, but when looking at the canvas in situ, one cannot help but notice the extraordinary skill and originality of the style and techniques of the great artist-intellectual Andrey Daniel. His landscape is not at all typically realistic, but presents a fantastic view of the village of Lessidren, seen in all probability in a dream, executed in a variety of techniques with quite paradoxical forms and elements in the details. 

Andrey Daniel, “Landscape from Lessidren I”, 1998

What is different about Andrey Daniel’s dream world, when compared to the other artists featured in the auction with the same theme, is the rationalism, the accessibility of the subconscious to the intellect, and the mind’s control over the subconscious. In Daniel’s landscape of Lessidren, seen in a dream, irrationality is almost absent, there is no unknown and incomprehensible, no monsters, threats and fears, no unprocessed trauma, pain and aggression, as we see in the works on this theme by the other artists featured in the auction. There is only a beautiful, orderly, fantastical-dreamy tale that we immerse ourselves in exploring with curiosity, confidence, peace and pleasure.

I would like to draw attention to another peculiarity of the selected group of Bulgarian artists. They are representatives of different ethnicities that make our nation rich and multi-coloured, combining many traditions and diverse cultural heritage. To the best of our knowledge, four of them are representatives of the Bulgarian ethnicity (Georgi Popov-John, Genko Genkov, Vasil Stoev and Milko Bozhkov). Two are representatives of the Jewish ethnicity (Andrey Daniel and Greddy Assa), one is a representative of the Armenian ethnicity (Edmond Demirdzhian), and one is a descendant of a Ukrainian-Russian aristocratic family who fled immediately after the establishment of the communist dictatorship in Russia (Evgeny Bosyatsky).

With this selection of Bulgarian artists of different ethnicities, which are highly appreciated by art collectors and connoisseurs in Bulgaria and around the world, we want to delight the admirers of contemporary fine art. Moreover, with the inclusion of a print of a New Testament theme by the great Rembrandt van Rijn, we celebrate the bright holiday of Christ’s Resurrection and hope to delight admirers of the world art masterpieces.

Rositsa Gicheva-Meimari, PhD 

Senior Assistant Professor in the Art History and Culture Studies Section and member of the Bulgarian-European Cultural Dialogues Center at New Bulgarian University

* The titles of the works that are in quotation marks are given by the authors or have become known to us through publications. Enakor Auction House adds titles without quotation marks, as the original titles are unknown to us.

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