The Bulgarian Cultural Institute in the Haus Wittgenstein in Vienna opened the exhibition, ‘Bread’, by Atanas Katchamakoff, consisting of 30 works donated to the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund as a gesture by the artist himself to his native land.
The drawings, poetically following the entire process of creating bread—from ploughing to throwing in the oven and the related ritual stages—can be viewed until 20 January in the salons of this unique building, which has no analogue in the world.
Guests were greeted with a glass of wine and a violin performance and, in the lobby, they had the opportunity to watch short films about the ‘Bread’ exhibition, the 40th anniversary of NEF ’13 Centuries of Bulgaria’, and about the novel, ‘Dobry’.
Prof. Rumyana Koneva, the first female director of the Haus Wittgenstein Bulgarian Cultural Institute since its founding in 1977, greeted the guests in German and introduced Slava Ivanova, Executive Director of the National Endowment Fund, who, in an emotional speech, told the story of Atanas Katchamakoff, who was born in Lyaskovets, studied at the Academy of Arts in Sofia, under Prof. Ivan Lazarov, and made it to Hollywood, gaining recognition in the United States.
Apart from his career as an artist in major film productions such as ‘Ben-Hur’, and his success as a sculptor, this Bulgarian man became the co-author of a children’s bestseller. Slava Ivanova told the guests at Haus Wittgenstein that when Katchamakoff and his wife gathered with friends, he loved to talk about his childhood in Bulgaria—a time of poverty, but also of inherent virtues. Journalist Monica Shannon insisted on taking notes, the artist drew illustrations to accompany what she had written, and so the novel ‘Dobry’ came to life.
The tale of the Bulgarian peasant boy who dreamt of becoming an artist was so popular with American kids that it was republished thirteen times. In 1936, it was awarded the Newbery Gold Medal, the highest prize for children’s and adolescent literature in the United States. A jury chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the then-incumbent president, presented the prize.
Although extremely popular in America, the novel ‘Dobry’ had never been published in Bulgaria—until this year, thanks to NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’, which bought the rights from the world’s largest Penguin Publishing House. The Bulgarian and Austrian guests gathered at the Haus Wittgenstein had the opportunity not only to see the book, but also to obtain copies, which were not sold, but donated to cultural institutions, libraries, and Bulgarian schools around the world.
Intrigued by Atanas Katchamakoff’s colourful personality and by his drawings, the first visitors to the exhibition plied Slava Ivanova with questions not only about the artist, but also about the activities of NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’.
The exhibition runs in Vienna until 20 January 2022.
You can view the video of the exhibition opening here: