Vesselin Staikov's Biography
The fist works of promising young artist were received with a good deal of enthusiasm. Art critics pronounced Staikov “a gifted engraver” and “and an artist of social significance”, discovering in him the makings of “an engraver with a future”. Vesselin Staikov was born on July 31, 1906 in Peshtera, a small town nestled in the picturesque northern slopes of the legendary Rhodope Mountains. On his mother’s side he is descended from a prominent family of fighters for church and political independence (see note). These militant traditions tended to develop certain tendencies in the artist’s work. It is by no means an accident that Staikov worked on a whole cycle of engravings based on the national liberation struggle of the Bulgarian people from the epoch of National Renascence down to our times. Nor is it an accident that he is so taken by the heroic part of the Bulgarian People, their colorful architecture and picturesque mountains in which fighters for freedom found refuge through the ages. Finally, it is no accident that a considerable part of Staikov’s work draws its inspiration from the life and work of the people.
NOTE: In their long struggle for national independence the Bulgarian people one two major victories during the second half of the 19th century. The first was the liberation from the ecclesiastic domination of the Greek Patriarch in Constantinople, imposed on the Bulgarian Church after the advent of the Turks, and the founding of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1871. The second was the overthrow of Turkish political rule and the conclusion of the San Stephano peace Treaty (1878) following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877/78.
Vesselin Staikov spent his childhood at the house of his grandfather, one of the enlightened and educated men of his times. Here, at an early age, he had an opportunity of browsing in the old family library, acquainting himself with books and illustrations not easily accessible in that epoch. These opened up a new world to him. He would sit for hours studying the pictures of the world-famous masters of Renaissance and of eminent Russian Painters.
The illustrations of the Russian Niva magazine and Gustave Dore’s fine engravings in the Bulgarian translation of Dante’s Inferno had a particularly strong and lasting impact on the impressionable child. These engravings were something of a revelation to him. Here for the first time was revealed to him the exquisite beauty of graphic arts and this quite possibly determined his future.
The second major influence in the youth’s life was the Bulgarian painter and pedagogue Vitko Babakov, who used to spend summer vacations in Peshtera. Young Staikov would go out together with him and paint the attractive environs of the town and the scenic beauties of the Rhodope Mountains. During these excursions the two would engage in long discussions on the problems of art.
“This cordial friendship”, relates Vesselin Staikov, “will always remain one of the most stirring recollections from my adolescence. I will forever have love and gratitude for this first teacher of mine, who was a true artist.”
The friendship between the teacher and student, despite the great difference in age, continued in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second cultural center, where young Vesselin matriculated at the gymnasium. Here his talent and unusual interest in the fine arts attracted the attention of the great Bulgarian painter Hristo Stanchev, who taught drawing at that school. The young man now had a keen desire to master the art of drawing and to become painter.
In 1925 Vesselin Staikov left for Sofia. As soon as he saw Staikov’s exceptional gifts, the eminent Bulgarian Painter, Professor Stefan Ivanov, permitted the youth to join his last-year class before he was even admitted to the Academy of Art. Once he took one of Staikov’s etudes and showed it to his class, citing it as an example of rare talent in a schoolboy.
In 1926 Staikov enrolled at the Academy of Art in Prof. Nikola Marinov’s class as a non-matriculant, for he had not yet completed his secondary education. Later he took all the necessary examinations, became a regular student and in 1932 graduated from the academy, where he had attended Prof. Tseno Todorov’s course in painting.
At that time that Vesselin Staikov was a student at the Sofia Academy of Art, there was no special course in graphic arts. Students of painting interested in the graphic arts attended Prof. Vassil Zakhariev’s course. It is from him that Staikov obtained a basic knowledge of graphics which he subsequently perfected.
Staikov produced his first works in this field while still a student. His first attempts at graphics go back to 1928. One year later his first original woodcut Cutting Ground appeared in print. At the annual exhibition of the graduating students of the Academy of Art Staikov’s paintings, pictures and especially his engravings attracted the attention of art critics.
In the summer of 1932 Vesselin Staikov left for Arbanassi, a Bulgarian village famous for its original old architecture. From there he brought back sketches for two woodcuts. In 1933, as a member of the Union of New Painters, he took part in the 7th National Art Exhibition with five engravings: Hemp-washing, Harvest, two motifs of Arbanassi and Sofia. A few months later he showed some of his works at the General Art Exhibition held in Varna at the time of the General Economic Exposition.
The same year Staikov joined the State Printing House in Sofia as engraver. Here he lived amid engravers and technicians and acquainted himself with printing technique. Particularly beneficent to his development was his close collaboration with the Russian V. Vlasov, the greatest master engraver on metal who has ever worked in Bulgaria. Staikov remained about a year at the State Printing House. During this period he produced the woodcuts Engravers, The City, Square, and some graphic works in the Bulgarian Press magazine.
In 1934 the Union of the New Painters in Bulgaria, together with the Yugoslav Zemlya Society of Zagreb, organized an exhibition in Sofia which was later transferred to Zagreb, Lyublyana and Belgrade. Vesselin Staikov participated with four works of art: Fisherman, Boatmen, The City and Square. He also took part in the Exhibition of Bulgarian Graphic Arts, held the same year in the Czechoslovak towns of Koshice and Pilsen, with a number of woodcuts and drawings. Reporting on this exhibition, the art critic M. Polyak wrote that Staikov’s works revealed “the native traditional taste of the Bulgarian for the romantic beauty of old monasteries, churches, village and city houses, for the epic sweep of the Bulgarian land” (Prager Presse, June 8, 1934).
Vesselin Staikov has participated in all National Art Exhibitions held in Bulgaria during the past two decades. He is increasingly establishing himself as a creative artist with a social consciousness, as a bold master of composition, as a portrayer of Bulgarian architecture and of Bulgarian land. Making steady progress in his technique, he is emerging as an engraver with a pronounced feeling for rhythm, form and mass. Already at the 8th National Art Exhibition in 1934 his Sozopol cycle (two Sozopol (Sozopol – Bulgarian town on the Black Sea coast, famous for its original ancient architecture) engravings) and Boatmen stamped him as a first-class master.
Having acquired a fine engraving technique in the rendering of light and shade and the most the concreteness of the subject-matter, Staikov undertook in 1936 the difficult task of producing a wood engraving showing a large realistic portrait. He successfully accomplished the task set in his Portrait of V. Statkov: three-dimensional modeling of shape, separation of the materials and reproduction of similarity, state and moods. This was the first work of its kind produced in Bulgaria. The artist also worked in applied graphics: bookcovers with the pictures of Bulgarian voivodas and other heroes of the Renascence period, and engravings – as illustrations for the folk epic King Marko.
Parallel with his successful participation in the Bulgarian National Art Exhibitions, Vesselin Staikov achieved considerable renown abroad. Along with four other Bulgarian graphic artists he took part in the 2nd International Woodcut Exhibition, held in Warsaw in 1936. Four of his woodcuts were displayed there, one of which – Boatmen Repairing a Boat, was reproduced in the general catalogue (Catalogue II Exposition internationale de gravures originales sur bois a Varsovie, MCMXXXVI). For this he was given an honorary diploma and a cash award. At the 1937 World Fair in Paris Staikov scored his greatest success, winning a gold medal. In 1937 and 1938 his works were displayed in several exhibitions abroad, including the VI Lithographic and Woodcut Exhibition (1937/8) and the V Etching and Woodcut exhibition (1938/9) in Chicago. The former comprised over 400 works of art; 111 of these were selected by a jury after the exhibition was over to be shown in many cities in the United States. Among them was also Vesselin Staikov’s Peasants.
In 1938 the artist left for Munich, where he organized an individual exhibition, displaying 30 of his works, among them: a variant of the engraving Boatmen Repairing a Boat from the Sozopol cycle, Forest, Bansko, Dobrinishte, Peshtera, A Worker, Tobacco Stringers, Melnik, etc. (Bansko, Dobrinishte, Peshtera and Melnik are towns in Bulgaria). The same year he participated in a Bulgarian exhibition shown in New York with 8 woodcuts from the Sozopol and Melnik cycles and with the engravings In the Bar and The Village of Boyana (Boyana is a village near Sofia, named for its 13th century frescoes). One of these – Fishermen Pulling a Boat Ashore – was purchased by the New York City Library.
In 1940, after a competitive examination, Staikov went to Italy for further specialization. In Florence he studied painting with Prof. Felice Carena, and in the course of his tour of Italy he painted landscapes with architectural subjects from Florence and Venice (Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence and the engravings Pinii, Venice, Grand Canal and the landscapes from Tuscany). In 1940 the artist exhibited some of his works in the Bulgarian pavilion at the XXIII Venice Fair (Biennial). The same year one of his engravings was purchased by the Albertina Gallery in Vienna.
After the September 9, 1944 Uprising, which ushered in a people’s democratic regime in Bulgaria, Vesselin Staikov took part in the Patriotic War against Nazi Germany at Stratsin ( mountain ridge in Macedonia (Yugoslavia), where the Bulgarian People’s army routed Nazi units). At the “Front and Rear” Exhibition in Sofia (1944) and later in the provinces, he also showed some of his works. In 1945 he produced his woodcut Attack at Stratsin. The next year there followed a number of woodcuts with maritime topics: Talyan, Tyulenovo (three woodcuts) and Partisan Battle.
At the same time, following a competitive examination, Staikov was appointed assistant professor in graphic arts at the Sofia Academy of Art. He devoted much love and enthusiasm to the extension of the graphics section and to the systematic training of his students. The artist himself mounted and set back into operation an old dilapidated lithographic press left over from the days of the old Drawing School. It is on this press that he produced his first lithographs and revived a branch of graphics which had almost fallen into oblivion in Bulgaria.
Under the new democratic rule Vesselin Staikov takes a prominent part in his country’s cultural life not only as an artist but also as a public figure. He contributes articles, critical reviews and drawings to newspapers and magazines, participates in art councils such as the Committee for the Issue of postage Stamps and others.
In recent years he has turned some of his attention to postage stamps. He designed several stamps in the following issues: Inauguration of the Shipka Monument, Economic Set, Plovdiv Fair, 75th Anniversary of the April Uprising 1876-1951, Buzludja Congress 1891-1951, and Airmail (1954).
In 1947, soon after the conclusion of a cultural convention between Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, Staikov showed several of his works in the Bulgarian Graphic Arts Exhibition in Prague. His lithograph A Thracian was reprinted in the Kholar magazine, the organ of the Czechoslovak graphic artists. In the following year Staikov inaugurated the Bulgarian pavilion at the XXI Venice Fair (Biennial of Venice).
In 1950 Vesselin Staikov took part in the Bulgarian Art Exhibition in Moscow with his engraving Dinner, which was favourably commented upon by Prof. A. A. Sidorov and other Soviet critics and artists.
In 1951 Staikov left his chair at the Academy of Art to devote himself completely to creative work. He produced a lithograph Soviet Specialist Talking to Dimitrovgrad Workers for the newspaper Sovetskoe Iskusstvo (Soviet Art). For a lithograph on the same theme and for his graphic art production Forest, as well as for his work as a whole, he was awarded a Dimitrov Prize in 1951 and in the following year he was named Artist of Merit.
At the 1952 national Art Exhibition Staikov displayed a large composition Production Meeting on a Timber Farm as well as two other woodcuts – Bansko and Forest, while at the 1953 National Art Exhibition he participated with the lithographs Production Conference, Forest and Coast. Finally, in 1954 he took part in the III International Graphic Arts Exhibition in Lugano, Switzerland.
Vesselin Staikov’s growth and maturing as an artist proceeded in an environment imbued with democratic traditions. During the years when reaction was rampant in Bulgaria, the young artist moved among progressive student circles. Immediately after graduating from the academy of Art he joined the union of new Painters, which had set itself the task to create an art close to the people, an art reproducing the life of the common man and in particular of the toiling masses. Thus at an early age Staikov developed into an artist with a pronounced social consciousness which was reflected in his very first works, especially in his figure compositions.
“The Word “composition” at so early an age”, relates Staikov “sounded strange and alluring. But I had the feeling that I still lacked the necessary forces, the necessary professional experience to reveal the mysterious meaning of this unusual word by means of painting. Those were the days when academic formalism was in disfavour. The alarming influence of modernism after Cezanne was increasingly felt then, while the vexing problem of the broad social function of art, unclear to me as well as to many other artists of my generation, set difficult questions along the desired road towards compositions imbued with ideas”. Vesselin Staikov soon overcame this perturbation. The realistic creative trend gained the upper hand in him. He reached the clear conclusion that a composition with social content can and should be based on actual life.
“In those very years”, he continues, “graphic arts appeared to me as the most convenient form through which I could determine and express my personal attitude toward the outside world in a direct and immediate way, so as to reach the idea – the composition”. As can be seen from these words, the first impulse driving the artist towards the graphic arts was his youthful impatient desire to find creative expression in the composition. In fact, during these early years Staikov probably lacked the professional facility to successfully paint a multi-figure picture. That is why he chose the technique of engraving on wood. We feel, however, that he chose graphics as a means of expression not only because they provided a “convenient form” for an easier and more rapid means of self-expression by which to attain the composition, but also because of his pronounced inclination towards this form of artistic expression. For Vesselin Staikov is indeed a highly gifted graphic artist, especially in woodcuts, “to which he seems to have been born”, as the art critics have said of him. Having studied painting, he never lost contact with his art. He continued to work on and exhibit colourful landscapes which have won favourable comments. But it is mainly as a graphic artist that he has developed and won recognition. Painting lends to his graphic art a feeling for material, a plasticity in the reproduction of form, enriches it with warmth and, it may be said – although this sounds paradoxical – with colourfulness.
When reviewed in chronological order, his engravings clearly show his technical and artistic development towards ever greater perfection.
During the early part of his creative activity, covering the period 1933/40, Vesselin Staikov very often proceeded to execute his engravings on wood without previous preparation, just on the basis of superficial sketches which as a rule offered no clear yardstick for the subsequent graphic reproduction. The artist attempted to execute his graphic work on the wooden slab itself, to establish a balance between black and white, guided mainly by his feeling and thus achieving greater spontaneity and liveliness in the execution. During these years he very often used the wood lengthwise along the grain, thereby being forced to use a large and laconic stroke, a greater economy of means. Typical in his respect are Hemp-washing (1933), Boatmen at Rest (1934), Boatmen at Lunch (1934), Boatmen Repairing the Boat (1934), etc. Towards the end of this period the artist began to enrich his works technically by resorting more and more to slabs of cross-cut wood which gave him greater engraving possibilities. Gradually he increased the number of his instruments, using the ordinary chisel less frequently. Carried away by his feeling for tonality, he introduced a new element into his work – the graphic semitone. And we see how the dull black surfaces are relieved with increasing frequency by a thin stroke and how the artist masterfully graduates the values, separating the different materials and modeling the masses. His training in painting asserts itself even more definitely in his striving for realistic reproduction. But the artist does not forget himself, he does not get lost in extremes which might weaken the graphic impact of the engraving, does not overdo semitones.
Along with sound technical execution, Vesselin Staikov enriched his engravings with typical details, showing a penchant for architectural elements and consciously stressing the peculiarities of the subject-matter. These details, however, do not come out in the artist’s work as illustrative components, but enrich the theme instead, becoming part of the whole, lending it completeness and forcefulness.
The works shown at the exhibition of the graduating students of the Academy of Art indicated the broad thematic lines of Staikov’s future development. He made his debut with labour themes such as Construction, Hemp Workers and Cutting Ground. At the same time he also exhibited pictures of old architecture such as Dimcho Debelyanov’s House (Dimcho Debelyanov – Bulgarian poet), A House in Koprivshtitsa (Bulgarian town famed for its typical old-Bulgarian houses), and the woodcut Gherman Monastery (monastery in the vicinity of Sofia).
The artist himself has the following to say about the diversified themes which attracted him from the very beginning: “At that time the life of the worker and peasant, labour in general, had become my favourite theme. Together with this, however, my feeling for romanticism expressed itself clearly along another line. Absorbing and projecting my consciousness into the typical of our old architecture, topographic peculiarities and fairy-tale atmosphere of the old forests, and attempting at times to connect man’s life with this Bulgarian scenery, I sought to express and emphasize the old and outlived with clear notes of melancholy”. This thematic variety runs through the artist’s entire creative development. In recent years themes taken from the Partisan movement, the Patriotic War against Nazi Germany and the new socialist construction have been added to it.
In the Melnik cycle Staikov’s romantic feeling comes out with full force. The sandy, eroded hills rise powerfully above the quaint old houses which look like vestiges of the Middle Ages. In one engraving the dramatic sky, set into motion by the sunrays breaking through the clouds, lends a peculiar, legendary character to the landscape, while the engraving Melnik with its Three Hills is rendered with well- defined and organized means of expression. Vesselin Staikov models and artistically graduates the planes, reproducing the romantic and fairy-tale scenery of Melnik with great technical finesse.
Dobrinishte, Bansko, some later engravings of the Forest cycle and other engravings are a happy expression of realistic romanticism. The artist reveals here his profound love for the Bulgarian scene, sometimes enchanting end wonderful, sometimes ordinary and simple, but always producing a deep impact on the onlooker.
In addition to engravings with themes from nature, old towns and mountain villages, Staikov produced a cycle of engravings on the modern city: Sofia with its modern architecture, the clearing of rubble after the air-raids and the construction of new houses and buildings. He shows a particular liking for the architectural landscape with its contrasting plasticity.
The artist is also fond of doing ancient, strangely shaped trees as, for instance, the engraving of his native town Peshtera of the Old Oak, reproduced in an engraving of 1940. In his Forest cycle (1940-53) he extols the forest with its mystery, strange tree trunks and branches and sparse vegetation, where the penetrating rays of the sun produce wondrous arabesques.
Labour themes occupy an important place in Staikov’s work. He shows love and understanding for the worker, the peasant, and all common men who create the material goods for society.
“With the intensification of the revolutionary struggle in Bulgaria”, the artist goes on to say, “my romantic mood gives way to a clearer and more conscious realistic attitude towards the world around me. During this period I portrayed the worker with sincere love and enthusiasm. The world of the working people had become my world, I have never theorized on the character of this activity of mine”.
It is with compositions of such a nature that Staikov, as we have seen, participated as far back as the exhibition of the graduating students of the Academy of Art. The following year he came forth with a forceful composition reflecting the life of agricultural workers, entitled Hemp-washing. This work abounding in light has something of the movement of a Horo dance. Clarity and a feeling for rhythm are combined with the beauty in the typical motions of the workers, and the reality of the labour process. There followed several other engravings with themes taken from the life of the peasants.
In Fullery Staikov shows an aspect of the Bulgarian peasant woman’s life of toil. The dull blows of huge hummers, the coarse figures of the peasant women doing heavy work, the contrasting light effects, all these convey a mood of repression. Tobacco stringers represents three peasant women silently engrossed in stringing countless tobacco leaves, a striking example of laborious, monotonous work. All the workers portrayed by the artist reveal this rapt tension, utter concentration in work and muteness. Vesselin Staikov takes his heroes straight from life, without altering their looks and appearance, without embellishing their actions, without idealizing their figures or ethnographically beautifying their costumes. He seeks the typical, individualizing the figures so that the workers appear limned.
In his Sozopol cycle (1934-54) he shows various aspects of the life of the Black sea fishermen. In most cases the background is the Sozopol coast with its typical wooden houses. In the first engraving Fishermen at the Sozopol Wharf the artist develops the composition in a panoramic way with a high horizon so as to lend space to the picture and show as many aspects as possible of the fishermen’s work. In the foreground three fishermen are working next to baskets full of fish, while behind them a mother, sitting in a rowingboat, nurses her baby. Further back there are two other groups: one is dragging a boat out of the water, while the other is pulling out e net. The picturesque Sozopol skyline with its old, wooden houses provides the background of the composition. Another engraving represents the town’s shore street with three fishermen painting their nets. The other three engravings are Boatmen at Rest, Boatmen at Lunch, and Boatmen Repairing a Boat. The labour process is expressed with particular vigour and dynamism in the engraving Fishermen Pulling a Boat Ashore. The primitive instrument for pulling up the vessel, the muscular bodies of the eight workers, the intense exertion of these bodies, all these bear witness to the hardships and primitive conditions under which people used to work in Bulgaria.
In the engraving Boatmen at Rest, which dates from the artist’s early period, the graphic form is solved with the facility and ease truly amazing in so inexperienced a youth. It suffices to look at the arms of just one boatman to sense the sure hand and bold stroke of the engraver in expressing structure and form with impelling logic and an elemental force of feeling. In his Sozopol cycle the artist has sought out and succeeded in expressing the most typical features in the life of fishermen. Their figures seem to reflect all that is elemental and primitive in the sea and in their conditions of work. They are neither the calm and mute peasants of his engravings Dinner or In the Bar, no the timber and construction workers of his most recent engravings.
Outstanding among the compositions with a labour theme done before 1944 is the expressive engraving Stonecutters, in which the subject-matter is rendered with rare mastery. In this realistic work the theme is revealed in a most convincing manner, yet the graphic structure of the composition is completely retained. The figure of the old stonecutter, carrying the heavy box of gravel with his last ounce of strength, is given with great expressiveness. The contrast between the young and vigorous worker, now starting out in this profession abounding in hardships, and the dismal crude figure of the tired old worker is most striking. This work can be classed among the masterpieces of Bulgarian graphic arts.
The same qualities can be observed in the engravings The City, Fishermen at Lunch and Boatmen Repairing a Boat. In his two engravings with quite a different theme, Attack at Stratsin and Partisan Battle, Staikov shows great ability in handling complex figure compositions. The first of these reproduces the tension and enthusiasm of the Bulgarian soldiers launching an attack against the Nazis, while the second represents episodes in a historic engagement between Partisans and gendarmes. The dynamics of the hand-to-hand struggle, the high spirit of the Partisans and their hate for the enemies of the people are superbly rendered.
In 1947 Vesselin Staikov began to do lithographic work. This technique allowed him to model more freely without having to overcome the resistance of the material as in wood engraving. His lithographs show landscapes and seascapes, especially the Black Sea coast, and they continue the Sozopol cycle. He uses the same technique in his multi-figure composition Soviet Specialist Talking to Dimitrovgrad Workers. He also elaborated lithographically some of the pictures of his great April Uprising (The April 1876 Uprising against Turkish rule precipitated the Russo-Turkish War which brought Bulgaria national freedom) cycle based on Zakhary Stoyanov’s ( famous Bulgarian writer and public figure who took part in the April 1876 Uprising) “Notes on Bulgarian Uprisings”. In these works, which are not yet completed, the artist set himself the task of reproducing the enthusiasm and romantic pathos of a rebelling people in mass scenes.
Vesselin Staikov uses other graphic techniques as well, such as etching and copperplate printing. Here his free stroke and free drawing directly reveal the artist’s inner world. But he never forsakes his favourite technique – wood engraving. In 1953 he exhibited an impressive woodcut – the composition Production Meeting at a Timber Farm. In it the artist handles the difficult task of composition with great mastery, cleverly combining the group of workers with the mountainous landscape. This work represents a scene from the worker’s new life in the period of socialist construction.
Vesselin Staikov developed as a graphic artist at a time when the formalistic trend in art was penetrating Bulgaria too. Such influences are to be found, however, only in his early works, such as Cutting Ground (1929), in which the figures of the workers in the foreground are shown in an exaggeratedly unnatural manner; this early engraving also shows traces of the then current expressionism. In his first engravings, dating back to student days, there is a striving for pose and outward effect, a result of youthful exaggeration and insufficient technical dexterity. This tendency is only a temporary phenomenon, however. The artist makes rapid progress both technically and artistically and soon attains a high degree of proficiency in his field. He is well aware that the wood or metal engraver, more so than any other creative artist, has to overcome the resistance of the material. A growing dexterity and the great wealth of means of expression enable the artist to unfold all his creative powers and to give true and realistic expression to his idea.
The creative path of Vesselin Staikov is dotted with a series of successes due to his undoubted talent and his systematic and persevering work. Whoever has visited the artist’s studio is amazed by his extraordinary industriousness. The visitor beholds a happy combination: a great talent and a steadfast work – a continuous striving for perfection and ever higher technical and creative achievement. Before proceeding to do the etching proper, whether it is on lithographic stone or copper plate, Staikov makes many drawings and many compositional sketches. Often, after having produced a woodcut or lithograph and dissatisfied with the print obtained, the artist does the work all over again. Sometimes he repeats his attempts several times before achieving what he has set out to do.
Staikov’s work is national in form. Some engravings reflect the romanticism of Bulgarian scenery and architecture, others – the primitive force and ruggedness of the village landscape, while still others reveal the artist’s sympathy and love for the life and work of the Bulgarian people. This is characteristic of his entire creative development. Yet in spite of this continuity, an essential change can be noted in his work during the last few years. Although basically Staikov remains within the framework of his former themes, in his new engravings one senses an outburst of optimism which grips, stirs and uplifts the spectators. Obviously the artist has been warmed by the flame of the new socialist reality, by that mighty upsurge towards a happy future so characteristic of the nations which have set out on the path to socialism.
Vesselin Staikov’s art, despite a few minor deviations, remained free of the encroachments of formalism. In its development his art marked ever greater advances in the realistic representation of life as it is. After assiduous and prolonged efforts, he is maturing into a genuine realistic artist.
Staikov’s creative work is distinguished for its high originality. Having acquired a great many means of expression, he relates his ideas in his own individual language. As an artist he has mastered not only the means of reproducing reality, but also the secret of its emotional refashioning. That is why his engravings carry such a strong impact.
Vesselin Staikov’s impressive creative work represents both a personal success and an achievement in modern Bulgarian graphic arts. His engravings show his true stature and significance and mark him as one of Bulgarian’s foremost realistic artist.
List of reproductions:
1. Hemp-washing woodcut, 1932
2. The City “ 1934
3. Fishermen at Rest “1934
4. Fishermen “ 1934
5. Boatmen “ 1934
6. Fishermen “ 1936
7. Stonecutters “ 1936
8. Melnik “ 1937
9. Dobrinishte “ 1937
10. Karlanovo “ 1937
11. Peshtera “ 1937
12. Fullery “ 1937
13. In the Bar “ 1937
14. Melnik “ 1938
15. Tobacco Stringers “ 1938
16. Rozovo “ 1939
17. The Old Oak “ 1940
18. Forest “ 1940
19. Dinner “ 1940
20. Izvorovo “ 1942
21. Street in Melnik “ 1943
22. Harbour etching, 1946
23. Sofia “ 1946
24. Sunflower “ 1947
25. Boats “ 1946
26. Sozopol woodcut, 1954
27. Bansko “ 1947
28. Forest “ 1952
29. Coast lithograph, 1953
30. Izvorovo “ 1952
31. Forest woodcut, 1955