Legendary Bulgarian illustrator and artist Lyuben Zidarov passed away, aged 99, on January 3, the Union of Bulgarian Artists (UBA) said on Wednesday.
"Zidarov's remarkable children's books illustrations and paintings have shaped the taste of several generations. Active until the very last, he inspired us with his unabated urge to experiment, with his optimism and his subtle sense of humour," the UBA
Born in Tarnovo, North Central Bulgaria, on December 23, 1923, he graduated in painting at Sofia's National Academy of Art under Prof. Iliya Petrov in 1948. Between 1950 and 1970 he contributed to the children's Septemvriiche newspaper and Slaveyche
magazine. From 1967 to 1970, he was in charge of artwork at the Narodna Mladezh publishing house. His most famous illustrations include The Arabian Nights, Bulgarian Folk Tales, R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island, Andersen's Tales, Dumas' The Count of
Monte Cristo, Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and The Prince and The Pauper, H.B. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Oscar Wilde's Tales, E.T.A. Hoffmann's Stories, adventure novels by Karl May, Mayne Reid and Jules Verne, and books by Bulgarian writers Nikolay Rainov,
Angel Karaliychev, and Asen Raztsvetnikov.
In 2019 Zidarov produced the Bulgarian 20th Anniversary edition cover art of the Harry Potter books.
His numerous awards include Grand Prix of the First National History Exhibition of Bulgarian Comic Books, Gold and Silver Medal at the international book fairs in Leipzig and Moscow, the Boris Angelushev Prize of the Union of Bulgarian Artists (1976),
and the Hans Christian Andersen's Athens Prize (1976). He was nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize. In 2022 he received an honorary doctorate from the National Academy of Art.
His works are in the holdings of the National Gallery of Art in Sofia, the Sofia City Gallery, the Honk Ik University Gallery in Seoul, The Prince of Wales Art Collection at St James' Palace, London, and private art collections in Canada, the US, Norway,
Finland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.
"Lyuben Zidarov was indeed an epoch. He epitomized the best tendencies in Bulgarian illustrations and beyond. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a specific quest for stylized shapes, figures and colours in Eastern Europe: Czechoslovakia,
Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria. He was among the best and among those who laid the foundations of these quests," illustrator Iassen Ghiuselev commented.
"According to the illustrator, their poetics, philosophical depth and wisdom make readers of all ages – from children to the elderly – to discover something of their own there, which remains forever intimate. That is why the return to Andersen at a
different stage of life leads to new, unprecedented nuances and suggestions."
"I have illustrated Andersen’s fairy tales four times at different points of my career as an illustrator, which is a strong proof of how long I have carried this author inside. For me, however, he also proved to be the most difficult one since the
fairy tales read by an adult were no longer stories about people and animals but a whole world carrying the philosophy and wisdom of the eternal in the moral code of mankind. In the course of many years I collected documental material about the time of
Andersen and my trip to Denmark gave me the unique chance to immerse in the atmosphere of his world. It gave me the opportunity to make a new attempt at the last, fourth and unfortunately not completed edition, to turn my back on precise information and
to plunge into the psychological substance of fairy tales. The distance of time will undoubtedly decide whether the new illustrations are the best ones and if, despite my professional experience, they are not much the worse for the lack of the
romanticism and imperfection of a young beginner …”
About the 2007 exhibit, "The Back is Like the Face":
"The painter is known with his sense of humour and this explains the title of the exhibition "The Back is Like the Face". He believes that the best way to express the serious things is by the humour. And while the face can be hidden by make up, the back
doesn't bear any decoration. So one look at the back side of the man can show the real portrait of the person."