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Exhibition is dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the artist’s birth, realized with the support of the Ministry of culture and in partnership with Bulgarian National Radio

The theme of melancholy permeates the history of art and human culture as a whole. Although the word was first used primarily to denote a severe “depressive disorder” of the personality, Aristotle already had the insight that melancholy and genius had a common nature. In the text of Problemata XXX, we read: “all who have been exceptional men in philosophy, political science, poetry, or the arts have been melancholic.” In other words, melancholy, that malaise of spirit capable of leading people, however few, to the noblest pursuits, can be thought of as a “cultural disease.” A disease whose difference from madness is only in the degree of its possession – and the artist is one who, precisely through melancholy, reaches territories inaccessible to others. Territories inhabited by inexplicable despondency, unbearable insomnia, and unconscious anxiety.

Far from the dramatic conversation about melancholy that found particular continuity during the age of Romanticism, and later, also on the threshold between the 19th and 20th centuries, the artist Vasil Barakov was born in Kazanlak in 1902. His entire life path – from his first breath of air to his last – would pass through many vicissitudes, deprivations, anguishes, hardships, and sorrows. Suffering losses, passing through the upheavals of two world wars and a handful of other wars, through bloodshed and burials, Vasil Barakov would remain faithful to silence in his art from his first creative gesture to his last. An art which, like that of no other Bulgarian artist, seems to have been created, thought out, and devised with one single hidden goal – to become an apotheosis of melancholy.

The exhibition 120 Years Since the Birth of Vasil Barakov. Territories of Melancholy is a story about all of this. A visual travelogue about the artistic and life experiences of the artist. An artist and a phenomenon who did not imitate anything before him, but simply put his will to be and to suffer into his art. Because as the philosopher said, “although each individual misfortune seems to be an exceptional occurrence, misfortune is, in general, the rule,” and the appearance of happiness is just an intermission, a short pause between individual historical events. It seems like Vasil Barakov was better aware of that than any other Bulgarian artist, and his pictures are the most vivid evidence of that – works that contain only morsels of the experience he gleaned in the territories of melancholy.

This exhibition, in which the public can encounter more than 90 of the artist’s works – many of which have never been shown before – was realized with the support of the Ministry of Culture and in partnership with Bulgarian National Radio. The project is part of the program of the annual celebrations in the Valley of the Thracian Kings organized by the Municipality of Kazanlak. A catalogue will soon be printed presenting Barakov’s entire artistic legacy residing in the state art museums of Bulgaria and in some of the large private collections. The catalogue, whose official premiere will be on November 1, has been made possible through the financial support of the Ministry of Culture. After the closing of the exhibition at the Art Gallery – Kazanlak, it will be presented in Sofia in a form specially adapted for one of the exhibition spaces of the Union of Bulgarian Artists.


The Exhibition Team

Plamen V. Petrov – curator
Dr. Milena Georgiev – scholarly consultant
Natasha Noeva (NN) and Plamen V. Petrov (PVP) – text authors
Katya Hristova – project coordinator
Kristina Beleva – restorer
Georgi Sharov – designer
Tsvetan Ignatovski – photographer
Traci Speed – translator
Lora Sultanov – proofreader
Albena Dimitrova, Milen Alagenski, Teodora Mancheva – technical assistants
Minka Ivanova and Petya Mincheva – accounting and human resources


Included in the exhibition are works from

the Art Gallery – Kazanlak, the National Gallery – Sofia, Dimitar Dobrovich Art Gallery – Sliven, the Svetlin Rusev Donated Collection – Pleven, Iliya Beshkov Art Gallery – Pleven, Art Gallery – Smolyan, Sofia City Art Gallery, Museum Collection of the National Academy of Art, Georges Papazov Art Gallery – Yambol, Boris Georgiev City Art Gallery – Varna, Cultural-Historical Museum and Gallery – Momchilovtsi, Art Gallery – Balchik, Petko Zadgorski Art Gallery – Burgas, Dzhananov House Art Collection – Gabarevo, Art Gallery – Dobrich, Stanka Dimitrova Art Gallery – Kardzhali, Art Gallery – Pernik, City Art Gallery – Plovdiv, Prof Iliya Petrov Art Gallery – Razgrad, Art Gallery – Ruse, Art Gallery – Silistra, Art Gallery – Stara Zagora, Art Gallery – Strazhitsa, Nikola Marinov Art Gallery – Targovishte, Atanas Sharenkov City Art Gallery – Haskovo, Elena Karamihaylova Art Gallery – Shumen, and private collections