The exhibition is dedicated to the 120th. anniversary of the birth of the great artist Tsanko Lavrenov (1896–1978). The initiator of the celebration was the Tsanko Lavrenov Foundation, while the project was realised by Sofia City Art Gallery, the Tsanko Lavrenov Foundation and the City Art Gallery – Plovdiv, under the patronage of Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia. This retrospective exposition includes artworks from the collections of state and municipal museums and galleries in the country, the largest being that of the Plovdiv City Art Gallery, with 65 paintings. The other collection of significant size is that of the Tsanko Lavrenov Foundation. Private collectors have also contributed. After the latest major exhibition at the National Gallery in 2002, this is the first comprehensive exhibition, which will, in a novel way, acquaint the audience with the oeuvre of one of the most interesting figures in Bulgarian art.
The exhibition includes over 300 artworks, whether paintings, drawings, graphic art, or applied art projects. It is a conceptually ambitious project aimed at presenting Tsanko Lavrenov’s art in its completeness and entirety—from his very early works to his final composition. Its realisation is achieved through a thorough examination of the personal archive of the artist, which is now available for publication for the first time. The rich documentary section is integrated with the pictorial material. The exhibition, based on a detailed study of Lavrenov’s biography, will reveal to the audience hitherto unknown aspects of the artist’s oeuvre. These include his first attempts at art dating back to his school years, and newly discovered works from his ‘modernist’ years with a focus on his formative period during his studies in Vienna (1920–1922). For the first time, Tsanko Lavrenov will also be presented in the context of the 1920s and 1930s, through his contacts with his close friends, the Plovdiv artists, such as Danail Dechev, Vitko Babakov, Zlatyu Boyadzhiev, Vasil Barakov, David Peretz, and Vladimir Rilski, whose works are also on display in the exhibition. Lavrenov’s artworks in the sphere of illustration and applied graphic art, unknown until now, are a veritable discovery. Visitors will also have the opportunity to once again remind themselves of familiar symbolic paintings, such as ‘The Old Plovdiv’ of 1930, which has not been displayed to the public for years. Other iconic exemplars include ‘Poet and Nature’, ‘Kurshum Inn in Plovdiv’, ‘Hilandar Monastery’, and ‘A Little Night Music in the Old Plovdiv’, among others.
‘Between the Modern and the Canon’ is an attempt to break the stereotypes in the concepts concerning the artist. Beyond the conservative image primarily associated with his paintings from the cycle, ‘The Old Plovdiv’, and the native theme, Tsanko Lavrenov is multifaceted in the various forms of his pursuit of the modern. Beyond the canon, which he created for himself in search of an original personal style, beyond the boundaries of the conception that modelled him, in search of an ‘art national in spirit’, he was always sensitive to the novel. His oeuvre, especially in the 1930s, represents a major contribution to the modern appearance of Bulgarian painting of the first half of the twentieth century.
The exhibition was organised by the National Art Gallery, the National History Museum, Sofia History Museum, the National Museum of Literature, Ancient Plovdiv Municipal Institute, Boris Georgiev Art Gallery – Varna, Hristo Tsokev Art Gallery – Gabrovo, Art Gallery – Kazanlak, Kiril Petrov Art Gallery – Montana, Iliya Petrov Art Gallery – Razgrad, Dimitar Dobrovich Art Gallery – Sliven, Art Gallery – Silistra, City Atanas Sharenkov Art Gallery – Haskovo, Faculty of Theology at Sofia University ‘St. Kliment Ohridski’, Art Gallery ‘Svetlin Rusev Donation Collection’ – Pleven, Allianz Bulgaria Collection, Dimitar Indjov Collection, and private collections.
After its showing in Sofia, the exhibition will be displayed at the Art Gallery – Plovdiv.