Text and video: Magdalena Gigova
The award ceremony in the name of artist Anastas Staykov was marked by two anniversaries: 115 years since the birth of the patron of the prizes, and 30 years of consecutive awarding of graduates of the Tsanko Lavrenov National Secondary School of Arts in Plovdiv.
The best pupils from the specialities of Painting, Icon Painting and Sculpture, Mural Painting and Advertising Graphic Art received diplomas, books and cash prizes from Slava Ivanova, Executive Director of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund.
Owing to the complicated epidemiological situation, part of the celebration took place in the schoolyard. There, the diplomas for completed secondary education were awarded, observing the ritual with flagbearers, the raising of the Bulgarian flag and an emotional farewell of class teachers and their pupils.
Then the officially dressed graduates put on their face masks to attend the award ceremony in the secondary school hall and to watch a film about Anastas Staykov’s life created by classmates of theirs.
‘Be healthy, be strong, be true to yourself, be purposeful and let art always be with you,’ urged Slava Ivanova, Executive Director of the 13th Century Bulgaria Fund.
The donation account to the Fund is maintained by the artist’s daughter, Dr Maria Staykova, one of the world’s foremost specialists in autoimmune diseases. She has worked for years at the John Curtin School of Medical Research of the Australian National University in Canberra.
Anastas Staykov was the first Rhodopean artist with an academic education, who specialised at the French Académie Julian in Paris. Born in Smolyan, he lived in Plovdiv for most of his life.
His subjects are characterised by the Rhodopean way of life and landscape. He took part in all the exhibitions of the Society of South Bulgarian Artists, and held solo exhibitions in Sofia, Plovdiv and Smolyan.
In 1958, the artist suffered a severe emotional breakdown. His monumental painting, ‘A Maiden Bids Farewell to Her Family’, or ‘Rhodope Wedding’, was given scathing reviews by the ideological critics of the time, because it depicted the marriage between a Christian man and a Muslim woman. And according to art experts, the 80 detailed images in the canvas were far from Socialist Realism. The interest in the painting was unprecedented: 35,000 people paid an admission fee to see it at the City Art Gallery.
At the same time, it provoked a tremendous discussion within the Union of Bulgarian Artists. The periodical press published over 30 articles about the artist. This fomented ‘scandal’ marked the beginning of a deep crisis in the development of the artist’s career.
Decades later, thanks to NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’, the canvas, that had been lying around in depositories, was restored and donated to the Smolyan Art Gallery.
In 1988, with the sponsorship and by will of the heirs of the artist Anastas Staykov, a donation account for an award in his name was created in NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’. To this day, it is maintained by the artist’s daughter, Maria Stаykova.
And here are the names of the winners of the 2020 Anastas Staykov Prize: