The most truly Bulgarian artist
The works of Vladimir Dimitrov, aka The Master, stand out for their unique style
10 February, 2017
Vladimir Dimitrov is one of very few Bulgarian artists whose works have become known far beyond their native Bulgaria, and certainly the only one to have rightfully merited the alias The Master. Early in February, Bulgaria celebrated his 135th birth anniversary with a series of events held throughout the country.Born in 1882 in the village of Frolosh, Kyustendil region, he grew up in poverty and worked as a painter’s apprentice, a newspaper boy, and a scribe at the Regional Court of Justice, but nevertheless painted portraits and landscapes in his free time. His talent did not go unnoticed, and in 1903 his first exhibition was staged. The paintings sold well, and he used the proceeds to pay his trip to Sofia, where he enrolled as a student at the State School of Drawing. During the Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the First World War he was enlisted as a military painter with the Rila Division, and covered both the battles and the lives of the soldiers on the front.After these wars, The Master consolidated his unique style and established himself as an artist influenced by the religious beliefs and ideas of Leo Tolstoy, and thus led by the desire to look into the spiritual worlds of ordinary people, he rejected the academic conventions in fine arts. In 1922, he exhibited some of his works at the Royal Manege, and pretty soon the display grew into a true cultural event. With the proceeds from the sales he travelled to Italy to work, and there he met the US patron of the arts John Crane, who in the next years bought a great many of his paintings. From the mid-1920s to the early 1950s The Master lived in his native Kyustendil region, where he sought to find the link between Man and Nature. He painted the livelihood of people in villages, folklore customs and celebrations, while looking for the characteristic features of the Bulgarian national ethnic type. During that time he created a whole gallery of typical images of Bulgarian countrymen and young women, and depicted with unparalleled artistic mastery their labours and the popular rites and festivals. His specific style cannot be mistaken: his paintings are striking in their vivid colours and unique brushstrokes. The works from that period have a definite icon-like composition: the image is calm, the figure is placed centre stage facing the viewers, and looking to engage into contact with them. Warm and cool colours alternate, the national costume has been stylised, and some symbolically significant elements have been hyperbolised. In his paintings depiciting rural lifestyles the passive virtues stand out: women are chaste and harmonious, while men personify wisdom. Over the years The Master worked for brief periods in many foreign cities, namely Paris, London, Brussels, Munich, Vienna, New York, Istanbul, and Rome, but even though he became world famous, he chose to live modestly and in poverty. He died in 1960 with no worldly possessions other than a few of his paintings.
A Grandmother with Her Granddaughters.