CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Discovering the Low Countries: 16th and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art from the collections of the National Gallery for Foreign Art

Exhibition: 5 October - 8 November 2001

Museum information

Text kindly supplied by Todor Todorov.

The exhibition will present 59 works of art from the 16th and the 17th centuries made in the Low Countries, the current territories of the Kingdoms of Belgium and the Netherlands. For the first time Bulgarian public will have the opportunity to appreciate and learn more about the culture and history of the Low Countries through the art of the region. While the number of exhibited works will be relatively small — 23 paintings, 3 sculptural works and 27 works of graphic art — the selection offers a wide range categories of art important for understanding the specificity of artistic culture of the region: Human Figure, Biblical Events of the Old and the New Testaments, Portrait, Mythological and Allegorical Themes, Landscape, Still Life and Scenes of Daily Life. To achieve its main goal — to make the presented artistic material visually engaging and intriguing with its cultural and historical significance the exhibition will make use of large posters, which will provide along with some comparative visual material and maps an introduction to the history of the Low Countries and explanations of the historical significance of each of the art categories above. In addition, each work will be accompanied with a label which will discuss in engaging manner artistic and cultural aspects of the given artistic object.

In the course of research for the exhibition Mr. Todor Todorov established contact with Dr. Dorotea Sokolova, curator of prints at the National Gallery for Bulgarian Art in Sofia. The graphic collection there holds a unique but still little known collection of over 3000 (!) graphic works by western masters from the 16-18 century. That collection has a tremendous yet to be appreciated importance for the development of Bulgarian art. It was acquired and brought to Bulgaria in 1780s by Christo Dimitrov, an icon painter from the town of Samokov. He was apparently a very educated and well travelled man and it seems that he purchased the graphic collection in Vienna. It was he who initiated one of the most interesting artistic trends, the Samokov school, which introduced academic artistic models for Bulgarian art during the so-called National Revival Period. Thus the graphic works by western masters, among which many Flemish and Dutch artists, are among the earliest documented evidence of the interest in and reception of western artistic models by Bulgarian masters during a period when Bulgaria was still culturally isolated from Europe and Bulgarians did not travel extensively. Preliminary arrangements have already been made to borrow from the National Gallery for Bulgarian Art several of the albums with Dutch and Flemish prints for display at the exhibition.

At the entrance of the exhibition will be set a video system which will show regularly films about the history and culture of the Low Countries. For that purpose the National Gallery would like to request such video material, preferably in English or other languages accessible to Bulgarian public. The films could be on art, history or music of the Low Countries of the period of 16-18th centuries.

During the course of the exhibition the National Gallery will organize a series of lectures on the art and culture of the Low Countries of the period 16-18th c. whereby particular attention will be paid to objects displayed at the exhibition. The lecture series will be given by professors at the Academy of Fine Arts and the New Bulgarian University and some of the curators from the National Gallery.

A leaflet-poster with a brief introduction and some colour reproductions of works from the exhibition will be used for promotional purposes and will be made available free of charge to visitors.

Should you have further questions or suggestions regarding the exhibition you may contact in Bulgaria

Ms. Nina Vladimirova, Head of Exhibitions
T +359 (2) 987-26-36

or in the USA

Mr. Todor Todorov (co-curator of the exhibition)
Department of Art and Archeology
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544
F +1 609 258-0103
E Todor Todorov