ALEXANDER PETROV was one of the artists who fashioned the image of Bulgarian art during the second half of the 20th century. His art of painting combines the synthesised plasticity of the image with the idea of the national in terms of spirit and subject matter, a particular characteristic of Bulgarian art of the 1960s, a time when one of the paths to professional fulfilment and establishment of an individual style was by turning to tradition and history.
Immediately after his graduation from the Art Academy, specialising in painting, under Prof. Boris Mitov, Alexander Petrov began to exhibit in the salons of the Society of New Artists, initially as a guest and, from 1943, as a full member. The events of September 1944 changed his plans and he went to serve at the front as a volunteer war artist, where he produced a large number of drawings for front-line and central newspapers. Almost the entire archive of his military drawings was donated to the Museum of Military History by the artist’s heirs. Several sketches—the only examples remaining in the family collection—are on display in this exhibition. In 1948, his painting, ‘Landing in Drava’, was included in the Bulgarian exposition of the Venice Biennale.
During the late 1950s and in the 1960s, the artist visited the Karlovo village of Bogdan and the Sub-Balkan valleys. Inspired by the beauty and hues of the Rose Valley, he created his significant Rose Picking and Lavender Weeding Cycles. He explored the folklore and national costumes, from which he drew out the colours and spirit that his canvases illuminate. He went through a process of rethinking and transforming the plastic language into an increasingly synthesised form. The colouring in his canvases progressively became more intense and saturated. The colour applied to large areas of local tones with mutually emphasising intensities played a dominant role in his paintings. Labour, love, motherhood, and the sea, represent major themes in his artworks. The motif of lavender picking became his emblem, and his colleagues called him Alexander Petrov – Lavandulata.
In 1960, the artist was sent on a creative mission to Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva where he produced his Central Asia Cycle. The exotic landscapes and the unique sunlight of Asia changed the colouring of his painting. It became even brighter, more vibrant and warmer. His numerous pastel and ink drawings reflect the immediate impressions of this so-different a world.
The artist brought back many drawings, sketches and aquarelles from his multiple trips to Paris. Inspired by the architecture and history of the city, by its dynamic life, he created lyrical townscapes of the Seine, Parisian cafés, as well as the students’ strikes in 1968.