What’s On: Major exhibition of a pioneer in printmaking in Bulgaria, at the National Gallery in Sofia

An exhibition of the work of one of the pioneers in printmaking in Bulgaria, Josef Pitter, opens at the National Gallery in Sofia on September 17 and is on until October 25 2015.

The exhibition has been organised by the National Gallery and the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Prague.

For the first time ever, it presents to the public the oeuvre of the Czech-born artist (1881–1925).

St Sofia Church, Sofia. 1910, aquatint. 29x23.5_ 32.7x25.5 cm
St Sofia Church, Sofia. 1910, aquatint. 29×23.5_ 32.7×25.5 cm

It includes more than 200 works from the graphic collection of the National Gallery – drawings, watercolours, oil paintings, and printed graphics. Works from private collections and the archive of the artist’s grandson, Václav Pitter, from Prague, are also on display.

Pitter lived and worked in Sofia between 1909 and 1921. He arrived in Bulgaria by invitation to teach Graphic Techniques at the newly established State Industrial School of Arts in Sofia, and he was in fact the first graphic artist with an academic education in Bulgaria.

He was among the first artists at the beginning of the last century who used subjects and themes of old Sofia, depicted in an idyllic and affectionate way, as a principal motif of their art.

The exhibition opened on the Day of Sofia, September 17. The exhibition is under the patronage of the newly appointed Czech ambassador to Bulgaria, Dušan Štrauch.

“Until today, Joseph Pitter’s name was known only to a limited circle of art experts and collectors although, a rich collection of his plastic endowment – drawings, watercolours, oil paintings, and printed graphics – donated by the artist’s son and daughter in 1986, is kept at the National Gallery,” the gallery said in a media statement.

“These works reveal an exceptional talent and a high level of professionalism in the mastering of complex graphical techniques.”

Although, at that time in Bulgaria, the graphic was still unpopular as a form of fine art, Josef Pitter created works that, from today’s perspective, appear modern as an artistic expression and extremely impressive in their technical perfection.”

In the early 20th century, Bulgarian art was still finding its feet and Josef Pitter’s role in educating young Bulgarian artists was just as important as that of his compatriots and colleagues, Ivan Mrkvička and Jaroslav Věšín, themselves among the founders of secular painting in Bulgarian art following the Liberation of Bulgaria.

“The exhibition at the National Gallery makes possible the return of this outstanding artist, who had conceived a deep affection for Bulgaria as his adopted homeland,” the gallery said.

A trilingual catalogue in Bulgarian, Czech and English accompanies the exhibition, with contributions from one of the most prestigious art experts in Bulgaria, Associate Professor Dr. Ruzha Marinska.

Geese at a Pond. 1910, colour aquatint, 9.5x8.5_ 26.5x15 cm
Geese at a Pond. 1910, colour aquatint, 9.5×8.5_ 26.5×15 cm

Between September 23 and October 22, at the National Gallery (the Royal Palace), there will be a series of lectures on subjects related to the work of Josef Pitter and Bulgarian art of the early 20th century.

The introductory lecture (September 23) will be given by Anelia Nikolaeva of the National Art Gallery on the topic: “Josef Pitter – First Steps of Bulgarian Graphic Art”, followed ( October 1) by a lecture by Ruza Marinska titled: “Josef Pitter in the European Context”.

Subsequent lectures will include: “Graphic Techniques Applied by Josef Pitter” (October 8); “Photography in Bulgaria in the Late 19th and Early 20th. Century” (October 15); and “Josef Pitter – Painter of Securities” ( October 22). Admission to the lectures is free.

After October 25, the exhibition will travel to Prague, where it will be presented in November of this year.



The Sofia Globe staff

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