The Three Forgotten Collections exhibition is organised to mark the 75th anniversary since the founding of the first Rotary club in Bulgaria and includes works from the collections of the Rotarians from the pre-war club Lyuben Bozhkov, Nikola Vassilev and Gencho Stainov.
The projects connected to cultural events were characteristic of the Rotarian activities and their bulletin regularly informed about art in Bulgaria. The club used to host the intellectual elite of Sofia, some of the regular guests being Alexander Bozhinov, Alexander Dobrinov, Sirak Skitnik, Raiko Alexiev, Prof. Nikola Mihailov. The Roatrians of Sofia collected works by Konstantin Shturkelov, Bencho Obreshkov, Ivan Hristov, Nikola Tanev, Boris Georgiev, Atanas Mihov, Andrei Nikolov and many others. As patrons of art we can mention Sergei Kalyandzhiev, Dobri Kurshev, the Peev brothers, Dr. N. P. Nikolaev, Gencho Stainov, Georgi Atanassov.
The name of Alexander Dobrinov is also associated with the Rotary society after his being presented in the club in 1934 by his friend engineer Tsvyatko Kadiiski. By 1938 the artist had created over 70 cartoon portraits of Rotarians and guests of theirs, most of which published in the Rotarian journal. Dobrinov was the author of the group portrait “Rotary Club – Sofia” (1936) which burnt during the bomb raids in 1944 and what was left was only a single colour facsimile. We owe Dobrinov also a brilliant portrait of the 1936 President of Rotary International William Manier as well as the portrait of the saviour of Bulgarian Jews, Dimitur Peshev, created during his visit to the Club. During one of his visits the founding father of Bulgarian cartoon Alexander Bozhinov, instead of delivering a Rotarian speech, drew a self-portrait, signed it and gave it to Rotary as a gift. That very portrait was published in the Club journal in 1938. The first representative of the artistic circles to be admitted to Rotary Club in 1936 was Dechko Ouzounov who painted the portrait of the first Bulgarian Rotarian, Subo Nikolov. In the same year under the aegis of Rotary Club – Sofia and the Bulgarian Ambassador in Prague, Ivan Popov (a founding member pf the Club), a celebration marking the 80th birthday of Ivan Murkvichka was organised in the Check capital. A year later the Club organised a discussion on the topic of “Architecture and its Synthesis with Art” prompted by Rotarians architect Mihailovski, architect Vasilyov and Dechko Ouzounov.
The current exhibition Rotary Club - Sofia presents collections inherited by Nikola Vassilev, Lyuben Bozhkov and Gencho Stainov. The works included in the exposition are being exhibited publicly for the first time.
Nikola Vassilev was born in the village of Trun in 1884. He studied medicine in Gant and later on law in Brussels. He dropped out to take part in the wars for the unification of Bulgaria. After the war he became representative of Standard Oil for Bulgaria , later on setting up his own company for trading oil products. He was one of the founding fathers of rubber manufacturing in our country. He was twice elected Member of Parliament. As such he signed Dimitur Peshev’s Declaration by virtue of which Bulgarian Jews were rescued from the Holocaust. Sentenced to death by the “People’s Court” and murdered on 1st February, 1945. Vassilev was friends with the artists Ilia Obreshkov, Sirak Skitnik, Ivan Hristov, Vassil Stoilov, Boris Denev. He was the one who invited Alexander Bozhinov to the Club. He was a close friend to Dechko Ouzounov. He recommended the purchasing of works by Konstantin Shturkelov for the Club. Vassilev was one of the initiators for the visit of a group of intellectuals in Athens in the early thirties, among whom were Prof. Ivan Lazarov, Sirak Skitnik, Boris Denev, Fani Popova-Moutafova. He owned works by Nikolai Rainov from his Prague period.
Lyuben Bozhkov was born in the town of Varna in 1880. He studied engineering in Vienna, took part in the first naval constructions in Bulgaria after which he worked for the BDO where he reached the position of General Director. Professor at the State Polytechnics. He took part in the construction of the sub-Balkan railway line and designed a project for the bridge over the Danube. Chairman of the Bulgarian Geographic Society and member of National Geographic. He was author of the book “Bulgaria is not Only the country of Roses”. A keen lover of books, at the end of his life he gave away his unique collection of geographic maps to the National library. He was friends with Konstantin Shturkelov, Vassil Stoilov, Dechko Ouzounov, Raiko Alexiev.
Gencho Stainov was born in the town of Kazanluk in 1884. He finished the Commercial High School in the town of Svishtov and then graduated in electrical engineering in Lausanne. He designed and guided the construction of Enina Water Power Plant, electrified the town of Kazanluk, expanded the Bratya Stainovi textile factory, developed a method for shooting at aircrafts (patented in the USA) and devices for meteorological research, studied the rainfalls in Bulgaria. In 1938 Dechko Ouzounov arranged the exhibition stall of his company at the Plovdiv Fair.