The first major exhibition of one of the pioneers in printmaking in Bulgaria – Josef Pitter opens at the National Gallery in Sofia

17 September – 25 October 2015

The exhibition is organised by the National Gallery and the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in Prague. For the first time ever, it presents to the public the oeuvre of the Czech-born artist Josef Pitter (1881–1925). It includes more than 200 works from the graphic collection of the National Gallery – drawings, watercolours, oil paintings, and printed graphics. Works from private collections and the archive of the artist’s grandson, Václav Pitter, from Prague, are also on display.

The Czech graphic artist Josef Pitter lived and worked in Sofia between 1909 and 1921. He arrived in Bulgaria by invitation to teach Graphic Techniques at the newly established State Industrial School of Arts in Sofia, and he was in fact the first graphic artist with an academic education in our country. He was among the first artists at the beginning of the last century who used subjects and themes of old Sofia, depicted in an idyllic and affectionate way, as a principal motif of their art. It is significant that his first exhibition opens on the Day of Sofia, 17th. September. The exhibition itself is under the patronage of the newly appointed Czech Ambassador to Bulgaria – His Excellency Dušan Štrauch.

Until today, Joseph Pitter’s name was known only to a limited circle of art experts and collectors although, a rich collection of his plastic endowment – drawings, watercolours, oil paintings, and printed graphics – donated by the artist’s son and daughter in 1986, is kept at the National Gallery. These works reveal an exceptional talent and a high level of professionalism in the mastering of complex graphical techniques. Although, at that time in Bulgaria, the graphic was still unpopular as a form of fine art, Josef Pitter created works that, from today’s perspective, appear modern as a plastic expression and extremely impressive in their technical perfection.

In the early 20th. century, Bulgarian art was still finding its feet and Josef Pitter’s role in educating young Bulgarian artists was just as important as that of his compatriots and colleagues, Ivan Mrkvička and Jaroslav Věšín, themselves among the founders of secular painting in Bulgarian art following the Liberation of Bulgaria. The exhibition at the National Gallery makes possible the return of this outstanding artist, who had conceived a deep affection for Bulgaria as his adopted homeland.

A luxurious, trilingual catalogue in Bulgarian, Czech and English accompanies the exhibition, with contributions from one of the most prestigious art experts in Bulgaria, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ruzha Marinska.

The financial partners of the project are CEZ Bulgaria, National Culture Fund and the Communication Strategy Programme of the Republic of Bulgaria for the European Union.

Between 23rd. September and 22nd. October, at the National Gallery (the Royal Palace), there will be a series of lectures on subjects related to the work of Josef Pitter and Bulgarian art of the early 20th. century. The introductory lecture (23rd. September) will be given by Anelia Nikolaeva (NAG) on the topic: “Josef Pitter – First Steps of Bulgarian Graphic Art”, followed (1st. October) by a lecture by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ruza Marinska titled: “Josef Pitter in the European Context”. Subsequent lectures will include: “Graphic Techniques Applied by Josef Pitter” (8th. October); “Photography in Bulgaria in the Late 19th. and Early 20th. Century” (15th. October); and “Josef Pitter – Painter of Securities” (22nd. October). Admission to the lectures is free.

The exhibition can be seen until 25th. October, 2015. It will then travel to Prague, where it will be presented in November of this year.

Location: National Gallery - 1 "Knyaz Aleksander I" Sqr., Sofia