Slava Ivanova, Executive Director of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund, presented awards in the name of artist Anastas Staykov to the excellent students of the 40th batch of alumni of the Tsanko Lavrenov School of Arts.
In a tradition originating in 1988, at the end of each school year, talented graduates from the specialisms of Painting, Iconography and Sculpture at the National Secondary School of Arts in Plovdiv receive prizes from the daughter and heiress of the Smolyan artist. Dr Maria Staykova, a world-renowned specialist in autoimmune diseases at the John Curtin School of Medical Research of the Australian National University in Canberra, is a sponsor of the Foundation’s donation account.
This year, to those awards in the traditional specialisms of Painting, Graphic Art, Sculpture, Iconography, Mural Painting, and Advertising Graphics, another was added; that of Spatial Design.
Snezhana Furnadzhieva, President of the Society of Plovdiv Artists, congratulated her future colleagues, while the Director of the Tsanko Lavrenov School of Arts, Svetlozar Chavdarov, boasted that two of the graduates in the new specialism have, based on their diploma works, already been admitted to the Academy of Arts. He emphasised that the works of pupils, among them those receiving awards, were a small part of those that deserved to be seen by connoisseurs of the figurative arts.
The diploma award ceremony began with the announcement of the names of the best pupils in the different specialities who, in accordance with the donor’s will, also received their prizes in the name of artist Anastas Staykov. On behalf of NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’, Ms Slava Ivanova presented them with the awards, their financial prize, and the gift of a book from the series ‘Contemporary Bulgarian Art. Names’, on Iassen Ghiuselev’s oeuvre.
But who is Anastas Staykov, in whose name awards have been presented to graduating artists for 33 years. He is the first Rhodopean artist to have received an academic education. He graduated from the National Academy of Arts before specialising at the Académie Julian in Paris.
All his life, he lived and worked in Plovdiv, where he became a member of the Society of South Bulgarian Artists. In 1937, he held his first exhibition in Sofia. Over 20 exhibitions in the country and abroad were to follow. Staykov became an honorary citizen of his native Smolyan.
The artist incurred the wrath of those in power with his monumental canvas, ‘Rhodope Wedding’. The painting was impressive in size: eight by two and a half metres. It depicted the marriage between a Christian man and a Muslim woman—something almost heretical back in the 1950s. Anastas Staykov worked on ‘Rhodope Wedding’ for eight years. The multi-figural composition featured over 60 images of real people, including the artist’s son and wife. Among the wedding guests, one may recognise the artist’s face. The painting was shown at a general exhibition in Plovdiv in 1958, arousing unprecedented interest: it was seen by 35,000 people in a very short time; the critics, however, loyally rejected it. The blow was so severe on the vulnerable artist that he stopped painting for 10 years.
‘Rhodope Wedding’ can be seen in the Smolyan Art Gallery.
And these are this year’s winners of the Anastas Staykov Prize:
Painting – Kiti Tencheva
Graphic Art – Maria Yanakieva
Sculpture – Dimitar Lazarov
Mural Painting – Kalina Koleva
Advertising Graphic Art – Maria Kalvacheva
Spatial Design – Nikol Traykova
Iconography – Terentia Gospodinova