Portrait of Neophyte Rilski and Self-portrait of Zachary Zograf

In 1838, in Koprivshtitsa, Zahari Zograf made the first butter and at the same time secular portrait in Bulgarian painting. He drew his teacher Neophyte Rilski, sitting behind a table piled with books, sheets of paper, an inkwell with a quill and a globe. A neophyte is the young painter's spiritual mentor, the two bond in a lifelong close friendship and maintain a correspondence for 18 years.

Zahariy Hristovich Dimitrov – Zograf (1810-1853) was the founder of Bulgarian secular painting - sets the stage and defines the character of the Renaissance secular portrait. He is one of the few icon painters who brought domestic elements into church art and one of the first to dare to depict himself in church painting – his frescoes of 1840, 1848 and 1849 include self-portraits.

Study icon painting with his father Hristo Dimitrov (founder of the Samokov school) and with his brother Dimitar Zograf (father of Zafir Zograf, better known as Stanislav Dospevski). Creates voluminous mural ensembles in the most important Bulgarian spiritual centers: Bachkovo, Rila, Troyan and Preobrazhen monasteries, and also in the Great Lavra in Holy Mountain. His images are distinguished by spiritual elevation and nobility. His works radiate humanity and optimism.

On the frescoes of the Transfiguration Monastery (1849), he painted the most extensive Apocalypse cycle, and his emblematic scene - "The Wheel of Life" expresses the idea of ​​the transience of human life, of this "glamorous and lovely world" - a main motif in his worldview. Around 1838 he painted Your self portrait. He created only three more easel portraits (on an easel), one of which is the portrait of Christiania (ca. 1840) – the depiction of a female face in a single painting was a revolutionary act for the 40s in the Bulgarian environment.

True to his rebellious nature, Zachary Zograf participated in church struggles and in the enlightenment movement. In his regular correspondence with Neophyte Rilski, he reported that he was meeting with young Bulgarians, whom he advised not to convulse, but to preserve their nationality. He persuades his teacher to establish a printing house in Samokov and offers him to open a bookstore in his own house with a shop.

At the Karastoyan printing house in Samokov, with his own funds, Zahari Zograf ordered the printing of "Mutual teaching table for our children", which distributes for free.

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