Dechko Uzunov. The Power of the Alafranga
23. 02. - June 2023
The exhibition Dechko Uzunov. The Power of the Alafranga is part of the Heritage Program of the Dechko Uzunov Art Gallery, a branch of the Sofia City Art Gallery, whose goal is to popularize the artistic legacy of the great Bulgarian artist. During the month of February, the month in which Dechko Uzunov was born, the gallery traditionally organizes an exhibition dedicated to his artistic legacy. The current exposition presents a rare opportunity for pieces from his series of alafranga-themed works to be seen. These were created over different decades during which the artist would repeatedly return to the topic. They were masterfully produced in a single sitting, in oil, watercolour, or mixed media, and the artist would return again and again to certain forms and compositions, making changes to the colour palette or particular details.
Alafranga, or “in the French style”, was part of the Bulgarian society’s transition from traditionalism to modernity. It arose during the time of the Bulgarian National Revival, and it influenced architecture, clothing, and everyday life in the mid-19th century. A style developed which embodied the changes and the modern European culture in Plovdiv, Koprivshtitsa, Pazardzhik, Sliven, Melnik, and other Bulgarian cities. In the art of the 20th century, the alafranga evolved into (or appeared as) easel paintings. A number of Bulgarian artist were excited by its colours, shapes, and symbolism and created their own alafrangas. Vera Nedkova, Dimitar Kirov, Mara Yosifova, Olga Valnarova, and many others turned to this subject.
In his rich and varied body of work, Dechko Uzunov was also captivated by the ornamentation and rich colour palette strongly expressed in folk costumes, weavings, and ceramics, so rich in form and unique in colour, as well as by architecture and its decorative trimmings.
He gazed upon the power, the stillness, and the confidence of the colour palette, the freshness of the tones, the softness of the lines, and the often extremely bold colour combinations that speak of the great workmanship and inner feeling of the National Revival artists. And this inspired him to create his own alafrangas. They would appear, one after another, between the rest of his subjects. From bouquets in vases and sprays of flowers, they grow into the Tree of Life in implicit alcoves and interiors reminiscent of Pompeian painting.
More than 20 works from the collection of the Dechko Uzunov Art Gallery, a branch of the Sofia City Art Gallery, have been selected for this exhibition.