September 26 – October 12, 2013
Sofia Press Gallery

This was a first opportunity for visual art lovers to see 36 unknown paintings by Boris and Slavka Denev, restored by Prof. Stefan Belihkyʼs students at the National Art Gallery. The exhibition featured detailed photographic documentation of the separate stages of the restoration process. Curators were Vessela Radoeva and Prof. Stefan Belishky.

The restoration of Slavka Denevʼs paintings revealed some interesting issues resulting from her unconventional technique, but also from the poor storage conditions many of these happened to be exposed to over the years. […] The story of the A Study of Nude Body is interesting enough (inv. No 36). She used the back of a canvass (a landscape from V. Tarnovo), painted by her father. Three stages in the transformations in this picture were well discernible. The first one was the landscape painted in the thick impasto brushes and palette knives so characteristic of Boris Denev. In the second stage, Slavka Denev removed the landscape from the inner frame, grounded the back and painted a nude body on it, although she left it incomplete. In the third stage, she apparently lost interest in the study and began drawing a still life on top of the landscape. This image is rather sketchy […] In the restoration process, we came across four cases when she used the backs of Boris Denevʼs paintings and his signature has been preserved on three of these. It is notable that these works were in good condition and their artistic quality can hardly be denied. Nevertheless, they were partially or fully covered in paint before Slavka Denev used them again. The style analysis indicated that these should be dated back in the 1960ʼs. This complicates our hypotheses even more, since Boris Denev passed in 1969. Did he himself allow his daughter to paint on his works? We will never know […]

Boris Denevʼs painting technique was far less experimental than Slavkaʼs. His pictures were far closer to the classical feel. An interesting peculiarity was his use of a narrower canvas (Ladyʼs Portrait, inv. No II 14, the canvas width was only 79 cm). This size of canvass, half the width of the traditional one, was often found in his works, and only rarely used by Bulgarian painters of the time. Although his manner of painting was specific and recognizable, the color techniques he used were quite diverse: we see dense, thinly layered color passages of delicate hue (Winter March), dynamic strokes in thick impasto, combined with light, dry brushstrokes, whereby the ground is visible and participates in the coloristic development of his pictures (Portrait of a Lady, Landscape, on which Slavka Denevʼs painting was produced etc.), bold modeling and mixing of the colors with palette knife in big color spaces (Sozopol, Landscape from Veliko Tarnovo etc.) Only occasionally, this artist used the back of his paintings for another painting (e.g., Unfinished Portrait of Slavka Denev/Landscape)...

Prof. Stefan Belishki