The seventies of the 20th century
In the 70s, as a continuation of the trend from the 60s, Viktor Todorov created many monuments, participated in national, district and individual exhibitions. The author was already established.
The Creative Fund at BAU and the Soviet “objectivist art”. The Bulgarian Artists Union (BAU) in the 70s had a large number of members, and the state provided a considerable budget for the implementation of monumental projects and works. A Creative Fund was established at BAU.
“At that time there existed the so-called “Creative Fund” at BAU. It supported all sorts of activities: souvenir art, folk crafts, making of neon signs, public signs, volumetric inscriptions, letters and sign design for public buildings and many other activities. Such big projects and monuments as “Buzludzha”, the works around the city of Shumen and many others have been created through that fund. The list is endless. The Creative Fund had seven divisions in different Bulgarian cities, with the Plovdiv branch being the most recognizable and profitable.
In the 70s, I remember, two Russian artists from the USSR came to visit Plovdiv. Viktor met them, somewhere in the Old Town, and from word to word in the conversation he concluded that their art is objectivist. The USSR artists felt dishonored and hurt, went straight to the Communist Party office in Plovdiv and complained officially that Viktor Todorov degrades their art.
I don’t want to sound like a lecturer, but I would say that it was one of the most brutal features of the Communist Party and the regime back then. There was no recognition of personality, authorship, individuality and so on. The ideology of the Communist Party excludes personality, otherwise how will the party rule you?
And what had happened? The Party decided that Viktor Todorov must be punished. An official artistic committee has been gathered to discuss what punishment to impose. In the end, everyone who attended this committee meeting – Petar Grigorov, Kolyo Vitkovski, Hristo Stefanov, Dimitar Kirov and others – have decided that Viktor Todorov’s expression “objectivist art” is not offensive at all, but quite plausible.” – interview with Petar Dramov, January 2023.
This is one of many examples of the purely ideological aspect of the Party’s interaction with the creative industry. It is not by chance that monuments, mosaics, murals and any monumental work lack data, author’s name and general information by whom and when something was created. Some authors put their initials on the murals, but not on all of them. This doesn’t change the merits and significance of the created works, but it is indicative of the workflow in the art of that period. Artists couldn’t remain aloof from historical and political processes, but at the same time they often made fun of the system.
“I’ve always idolized him. He was an extraordinary person with a great sense of humor, quick wit and highly intelligent. Once he was invited to a meeting to become a member of the Communist Party (which was considered a great honor), and he stood up at the meeting and said: “I don’t feel worthy!”. Kolyo Vitkovski then got up and shouted how Viktor was mocking. There were many such episodes then and it had turned into fables of sorts. The artists were all great characters at the time, but Victor was number one in that respect.” – Interview with Alexander Georgiev, friend of Viktor Todorov, January 2023.
Business trip to the West
In 1974, my father was sent on an artistic business trip to what was then “Western Europe”, beyond “the wall”. We went with the whole family. I remember, we left one morning very early, maybe around 2-3 o’clock. We traveled with two cars, ours and the other one with the family of Bori Stamenov, the mayor of Krichim at that time. By noon we reached Belgrade and visited their modern art gallery. Next we passed through Zagreb and saw their cathedral. From there we entered Italy and went directly to Rome on the highways. We spent three days in Rome and slept in accommodation provided by the Bulgarian Embassy.
We spent a lot of time in the Vatican. There, I, then 12 years old, got a total culture shock from the variety and amount of art on display in those spaces. It is difficult for me to cite a specific work, but perhaps the Sistine Chapel had the greatest impact on me. We also visited Villa Borghese and the dungeon with Cyril’s tomb.
From Italy we went to Vienna, Austria to visit a relative of B. Stamenov – an artist who was involved in the restoration of old and damaged paintings. He took us around the sights. We saw Schönbrunn Palace and what I really liked – the Hundertwasser House Museum.
On the way back we passed through Budapest and then returned to Bulgaria. That’s how the artistic business trip went. For me this was the first and very important encounter with the Western culture and with foreign countries in general. It was not the first time for my father and mother, as they had already been abroad several times – mostly around the “Socialist Camp”, as they called the countries from Eastern Europe back then.
Every summer we used to go to Sozopol, at the Black Sea. We have many relatives there on my grandmother Pelagia’s line, as I mentioned. In addition, there was a well-developed base for the Bulgarian Artists Union – an administrative building with a canteen, and accommodation in apartment houses in the old part of the city. The vacation shift lasted about 20 days. I remember, in the mornings, after breakfast, what a panic it was with everybody trying to leave quickly for the Royal Beach (Republican Beach, as it was called then). My father “armed himself” with a portable easel and Russian primed cardboard, study format 50 x 70 cm. These cardboards were a hit at the time and many artists used them for sketches and study productions.
Many of his colleagues and their families gathered on the beach, all of them were on the same vacation shift as ours – Hristo Stefanov, Ioan Leviev, Velichko Minekov, Hristo Tanev, Ivan Marazov, Ivan Andonov and many others. My father would set up the beach umbrella and then we would go looking for themes and landscapes in the surrounding area. Back then the area around the beach was deserted, there were low-growing groves and typha here and there, it was very exotic. Viktor worked with a trowel and usually by noon the landscape was ready. I was also drawing, using oil pastels and trying to keep up (while working in a small format). His colleagues often called out to him: “Viktor, are you on vacation or what?”, and he replied that he couldn’t stand sunbathing and sitting in one place. And that was the truth itself. Then, over a period of several years until the mid-70s, my father created a huge number of oil-on-cardboard landscapes. In between there were quite a few naturalistic works. Almost all of his works from this period are in private collections.