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Friday, January 16, 2015

Vladimir Dimitrov

The work of "the Maystora" Vladimir Dimitrov.
I've always been one to believe that one nation's art is no more or less valid than that of another. If all people are (theoretically, at least) created equal, then it stands to reason that their art deserves similar consideration. I'm sure also that what I've written here over the years does not totally reflect that mindset. The art of England differs from that of France, which differs from that of Spain, etc. simply because the people, and thus the artists, of these and all other nationalities differ. Differing, however, should not imply better or best. Such qualitative factors have to do with two elements, environment and training. Outstanding art demands prosperous, safe, enlightened environment in which to evolve, as well as superlative training for those involved. Today this means a formal, academic art education. Despite what some might have us believe, exceptional self-taught artists down through history have been few and far between.
Grandmother, Vladimir Dimitrov
Vladimir Dimitrov Self-portrait
During most of the past hundred years, the art of Eastern Europe was considered second-rate, or in fact, largely ignored altogether, not because it was, actually inferior to that of the rest of the world (though sometimes that was the case), but because in had to struggle against all the negative creative elements of what was, in reality, a separate artistic, economic, political, and social world. That all came crashing down the day after Christmas, 1991, when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The Berlin wall became an outdoor art gallery, and the iron curtain fell in tatters. The light of public recognition began to shine on the virtually unknown artists of the past, present, and yes, the future, who previously had been obscure, even invisible. One such artist was from Bulgaria. His name was Vladimir Dimitrov--Maystora (the master).
Untitled, (as is much of his work) Vladimir Dimitrov
My Mother, 1920, Vladimir Dimitrov
So far as I can recall, I've never written about a Bulgarian artist. For those who have never read about a Bulgarian artist, I won't embarrass you by sending you hunting for the country on a map. It isn't all that big anyway, and lies sandwiched west of the Black Sea, south of Romania, east of Serbia, north of Greece and western Turkey. If that doesn't help place it in your mind then, okay, go look it up on a map. Dimitrov is considered one of the most talented (if not the most talented) artist Bulgaria produced during the 20th-century. Born in 1882, Dimitrov started his training and his career with the dawn of the new century making him roughly a contemporary of Picasso. He died in 1960 at the age of seventy-eight. He first picked up the nickname "Maystora" while still a student at the School of Drawing in Sofia (the capital of Bulgaria). With that kind of early recognition, it would seem reasonable to say Dimitrov was born in the wrong country. Had he been born on the other side of Europe, he might today be considered the equivalent of Picasso.

The Man with the Grapes, 1935,
Vladimir Dimitrov
Girl in Apple Trees,
Vladimir, Dimitrov,
Vladimir Dimitrov was not an isolated entity. While in Rome, during the early 1920s, he met an American collector named John Crane, who not only bought several of his paintings, but very wisely purchased much of Dimitrov's output for the next several years. As a result, Dimitrov took the money and very wisely traveled the length and breadth of Europe from Russia to France and points in between. He even crossed the ocean to the United States. Having "seen the world," Dimitrov returned to Bulgaria where he spent the rest of his life. Though famous (for a Bulgarian artist, at least) Dimitrov chose to live just short of the poverty level, giving away money and possessions, never shaving, becoming a vegetarian, taking on a kind of messianic personage.
The Harvester, Vladimir Dimitrov
Untitled, Vladimir Dimitrov
Dimitrov's art was anything but somber, it's content reflecting his reclusive, provincial existence, but his color falling into the realm of Expressionism, even Fauvism. He painted friends and family, his parents and grandparents, village figures and scenes, abstracts, and landscapes, not far removed from the work of van Gogh, though somewhat less detailed. Dimitrov's early work reflects the Realism popular in pre-WW I Europe, but became more "modern" as time passed. If you've heretofore never heard of "the Maystora," don't blame yourself. Blame seventy years of eastern European isolationism. Oh, hell, just blame the damned Communists.

The Dimitrov Gallery, Kyustendil, Bulgaria 

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