Bulgarian artist’s exhibition recalls the intense cultural relations between Bulgaria and Romania in the 1940s

The curator of the exhibition, Angela Daneva from the Bulgarian-European Centre for Cultural Dialogue, draws attention to the work of Vladimir Kavaldzhiev

Until 20 May 2023 the drawings from Romania by Vladimir Kavaldzhiev (1908-1988), who visited it in 1948, can be seen at the gallery at 6 Shipka Street in Sofia. Kavaldzhiev visited both villages and towns and painted Romanian life – markets, the oil wells at Câmpina, the centre of Brașov and portraits of Romanian peasants. The idea for the exhibition belongs to the late prof. Ruža Marinska, who failed to realise it during her lifetime. 

“Prof. Ruža Marinska saw in him not just a talented artist, but an artist who had surpassed himself. We have no example of such an attitude to the world. Trivial themes related to rural life are presented in an original way,” explains the exhibition’s curator Angela Daneva from the Bulgarian-European Centre for Cultural Dialogue at the New Bulgarian University in an interview with BNT. The paintings show the picturesqueness of the Romanian countryside and the bright colours and light of the Romanian peasants’ clothes. One can feel a space full of life and lots of sunshine. The artist was genuinely intrigued by the people of Romania, the natural and social context in which they exist.

Brashov in the pictures of Vladimir Kavaldzhiev (source: The Bridge of Friendship)

After the end of the Second World War and the internal and external political changes in Bulgaria and Romania, “popular culture” became an integral part of state policy. Part of this policy was the exchange of visiting artists from both countries. “After the conclusion of the first Bulgarian-Romanian Agreement on Cultural and Educational Cooperation (26 May 1947) and the signing of the first one-year plan for 1948-1949 a Bulgarian artistic delegation travelled to Romania, visited Romanian museums and galleries, visited the oil fields of Câmpina and Hunedoara and got acquainted with the mining and industry”, writes the researcher of the Bulgarian-Romanian relations in the period 1944-1989, Dr. Spaska Shumanova in her publication “Bulgarian-Romanian Cultural Relations (1944 – early 1960s)”, published in the journal “Announcements of the State Archives”, no. 113-114, 2017, pp. 148-176.

There have been reciprocal artist visits before. In the second half of the 1940s, joint exhibitions of Bulgarian and Romanian artists were organized, and the ministries of culture in both countries bought paintings by artists from the other country. Thus, cultural relations and the activities of artists such as Vladimir Kavaldzhiev proved to be an important part of Bulgarian-Romanian relations in the 1940s and 1950s.

Câmpina in the pictures of Vladimir Kavaldzhiev (source: The Bridge of Friendship)

Bulgaria and Romania did not have open cultural centres in their capitals (for more detailed information, see the article by Dr. Spaska Shumanova “The Bulgarian Cultural Centre in Bucharest and the Romanian Cultural Centre in Sofia”, published in Vol. “Spre Pământul Făgăduinţei, între Balcani şi Bugeac: omagiu doamnei profesoare Elena Siupiur la împlinirea vârstei de 80 de ani”, 2020, pp. 405-420) and, as the Bulgarian ambassador to Romania Radko Vlajkov recently stated in an interview with Radio Bulgaria, the opening of such centres is not on the agenda.

Portraits of Romanian peasants by Vladimir Kavaldzhiev (source: The Bridge of Friendship)

The recollection of Vladimir Kavaldzhiev’s activities, realised by the Bulgarian-European Centre for Dialogue, and of the forgotten cultural relations between the two countries in the 1940s and 1950s demonstrates that links between people and artists from both countries can provide dynamism and new horizons in a world where the focus in international relations too often falls only on economics and security.

The Central State Archive in Sofia holds Vladimir Kavaldzhiev’s archival collection – f. № 1989K, consisting of one inventory with 41 archival items.On Facebook, Angela Daneva announced that after the exhibition closes, the artist’s work will be available to view and purchase at an auction organized by an auction house.

Photo: Romanian peasants as drawn by Vladimir Kavaldzhiev (source: The Bridge of Friendship)

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