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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

Drawing Beethoven - life and work of the artist Mincho Katsarov

You didn't seek the peace in your life,

the rest was not a dream for you!

For you, the creativity was a strength,

called people to reborn -

to pour fire into a depressed soul,

to kindle flame in someones breast!

Iv. Petrov

It is the beginning of the 19th century - the year is 1808.

The venue is Vienna – Theater an der Wien.

It is the evening of December 22nd and the theater is filling up with people – crowds, glitz, all the Austrian aristocracy!

There are only a few minutes left until the premiere of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5.

Beethoven's Fifth!

Ta, da, da, daaaa, ta, da, da, daaaaaaaa!

Everyone knows it!

On the evening in question, Ludwig van Beethoven himself conducted.

The world-famous canvas "Beethoven conducting the orchestra", painted by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov in 1945 in Paris
"Beethoven conducts the orchestra", Katзаroff, 1945

This very premiere is immortalized visually forever on this canvas!

The picture is extremely famous all over the world. It is a total masterpiece!

Everyone knows it!

It was established in 1945. The place is Paris. The artist is recognized worldwide as the best Beethoven portraitist.

What not everyone knows is that the artist is Bulgarian.

Mincho Katsarov is his name. He is from Brezovo.

How is it that his work is almost as famous as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony?

To answer this question, let's trace the life of Mincho Todorov Katsarov.

And now let's return to Bulgaria and together visit the small village of Brezovo ten years before the beginning of the 20th century. Then, on September 3, 1891, Todor Katsarya's family had their fourth child. With boundless love they give him the name Mincho.

Much to the regret of his parents, Mincho has an underdeveloped right hand, which he waves orphanly while screaming in the cradle. Mom's heart breaks looking at him! Dad is heartbroken - so who will help him? How will his dear child earn his living one day?

The child came into this world without an arm, but he did not come without luck!

Baba Ginovitsa, the brother's wife of the father of the future famous left-wing artist, calms the bitter and joyless family, deeply grieving at that moment due to physical infirmity.

Child of Thrace so beautiful

and son of the beautiful Brezovo region,

in you the drive never died

to finish your journey here!

Iv. Petrov

Indeed, Mincho was born with only one hand, but only what a hand was! He scribbled with wooden sticks in the dust wonderful, unusual, and even lovely shapes. The cow in the yard Mincho quickly sketched it, the little chicken - he sketched in the ashtray; and the calf beside them; and the small puppy along...

And life was once hard.

You fought with it, you won,

you depicted it with a skill so wonderful

suffered in so many pains and troubles!

Iv. Petrov

Always by his mother's side, always by his brother Stoyo - his first protector and closest friend. Everyone loved him very much and always kept him from being laughed at by the other boys, and Mincho grew up meek, kind and good - for mom's and dad's pride. And this boy was always smiling!

Portrait of the brother of the artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov - Stoyo Katsarov
Portrait of the artist's brother - Stoyo Katsarov

His amazing gift to create was noticed even then

Responded with kindness and helped everyone.

And he painted! The crippled child was constantly drawing - despite his physical handicap!

Because there is no gene for the human Spirit!

They sent him to Plovdiv - to high school to study and succeed.

But you see, he had a very alert mind and schoolwork was not enough for him, therefore the main character of our story begins to read: Arthur Schopenhauer - the most pessimistic philosophy ever created; "Force and Matter" by Ludwig Buchner; all exceedingly serious and heavy reading for the mind of our young lad.

This drives him to unimaginable despair!

Then a friend of his introduced him to the works of Tolstoy.

Portrait of Leo Tolstoy by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov
"In the Steppe"

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy is the other person who inspired part of Mincho Katsarov's work.

The young student was strongly attracted to the ideas of the Russian writer and thinker. Strongly impressed, he read all his works. Deeply impressed by Tolstoy's preaching of interpersonal love, kindness, peace and brotherhood between people, Mincho returns to his native Brezovo to be among his family, to be among his closest and dearest people.

He likes to read poetry - Pushkin, Lermontov; he reads the works of Gorky, Victor Hugo.

He happily learns Russian. With trepidation, he got acquainted with the life and work of great Russian artists, masters of painting.

Mincho has the support of his teacher Hristo Stachev, who gives him a path to true art.

Portrait of Mrs. Krasteva, Sofia - pastel; artist – Mincho Todorov Katsarov
Portrait of Mrs. Krasteva, Sofia - pastel

Then he had three exhibitions behind him - in Plovdiv and Sofia, where he attended the Art Academy in the class of the great Ivan Mrkvichka.

But his urge to improve is constantly growing, along with the desire to depict the world around him on the white canvas!

And thirty-year-old Mincho Katsarov left for Europe.

Onward to Vienna

The Austrian capital is the first stop in a series of highly intellectual and cultural European cities - great art centers where Mincho Katsarov lives, creates and seeks expression.

I lived in Vienna - the city of music, where music poured from every open window! I listened to Bach, Haydn, Mozart, but my inner antenna was most sensitive to the sounds of Beethoven...

Mincho Katsarov

Mincho shines in Vienna! Look at that face - that smile! So much happiness!

Self-portrait of Mincho Todorov Katsarov
Mincho Katsarov – self-portrait

I may move far away from Brezovo, but it will remain a holy place for me...

Mincho Katsarov

During his stay in Vienna, Mincho met Tolstoy's secretary - Valentin Bulgakov. The two start an intense correspondence with each other.

Portrait of Valentin Bulgakov - private secretary of Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy; artist – Mincho Todorov Katsarov
Portrait of Valentin Bulgakov - private secretary of L. N. Tolstoy

Today, the 33 letters are kept in the Russian State Archives of Literature and Art.

He met Tolstoy's granddaughter Tanya and immortalized her image on canvas.

Portrait of Tanya Lvovna - granddaughter of Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy; artist – Mincho Todorov Katsarov
Portrait of Tanya Lvovna - granddaughter of L. N. Tolstoy

Far from his native and kind Bulgaria, Mincho's warm feelings for his family, his sisters and his brother Stoyo are stronger than ever!

That is why he maintains a constant correspondence with his close relatives, forever remaining deep in his heart.

Life is nothing but creativity. Like a rolled-up book, it unfolds in front of you in time and space, and you always read something new and unknown until that moment. You don't know tomorrow, or next week, or next year, what they bring you and what they make of you. Everything is hidden and slowly revealed.

Mincho Katsarov

An excellent portraitist, he never stops creating - masterpiece after masterpiece emerges from under his brush. Oil canvases of lovely landscapes and emotions from his walks on the streets of Vienna.

"Head of an orphan" - a portrait of the artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov
Head of an orphan

Ludwig van Beethoven

One beautiful and warm evening during one of his many walks, Mincho suddenly and very unexpectedly found himself at the thick green bushes - a hedge surrounding the old cemetery of Vienna, near which his lodgings were located.

"Inspiration" - a portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov
"The Inspiration"

O people, you who think me evil, a fantasist, or a misanthrope: the weakness of my hearing appears to me like a ghost, and I avoid people.


Driven by childish curiosity, with great difficulty he made his way through the hedge, ending up in a meadow, in the middle of which there is a huge tombstone with the inscription Ludwig van Beethoven.

Mincho later found out that this was the first grave of the genius, and his remains were later moved to the Vienna Central Cemetery.

As fate would have it, the place where I live is connected to the first grave where Beethoven was buried.

Mincho Katsarov

Mincho discovers a mask on the monument.

All this left a huge impact on his life and work from here on.

Photograph of Ludwig Van Beethoven's mask and Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov in his studio
The Artist and the Mask of Genius

A brief history of Beethoven's mask: in 1812, the sculptor Franz Klein was commissioned by the family of piano makers Streicher to prepare a bust of Beethoven for a gallery of composers. Beethoven agreed to have a plaster cast of his face made so that the bust would match his appearance as authentically as possible.

"Nocturnal improvisation" - a portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov
Nocturnal improvisation

Mincho was obsessed with Beethoven!

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

Virtue is the only thing that can make us happy, not money! She is the one who pulled me out of trouble!


He immediately began to search for all kinds of documents about the genius, letters of correspondence, his work and fate, as well as everything related to the deaf composer. He constantly listened to the magical sounds flowing from his great works.

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

As long as I breathe, suffering humanity will find me ever ready to help!


Probably, this was exactly the basis of this maniacality - the two shared the same fate! Mincho - with the talent of an artist, but crippled and Beethoven - with the talent of a composer, but deaf!

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

My empire is in the air: sounds rage in my soul as they rage in the wind.


He even traveled to Germany in an attempt to gather more information about his new dream.

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

Life is so good and I would be a happy man if the demon hadn't taken up residence in my ears.


Mincho painted most of Beethoven's life-size portraits. His ambition is to be able to depict, to show and convey through his art as many mental states and moods as possible of the creator-genius.

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

To do good where one can; to love freedom above all else; may the truth never be denied, even on the throne!


After Vienna, he lived in Italy for about a year - in Venice, where he painted many of his landscapes.

After that, he moved to the French capital, where he remained living and creating until the end of his life.

In Paris

Paris - the city of wine, love and art!

"Notre Dame, Paris" - oil painting by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov
"Notre Dame, Paris" - oil

Romantic evening walks along the Seine, great inspiration, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Montmartre...

Mincho is in the midst of his dream!

Mediterranean landscape from Antibes, Southern France - oil painting by Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov
Mediterranean landscape from Antibes, southern France - oil

I love the nature. I often sit there for hours. The blue sky is my sacred roof. I feel the need to cleanse my soul.

Mincho Katsarov

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

Music should make the fire in the human soul spark!


Little by little, the theme of his life - Beethoven is getting more and more complete!

Mincho's masterpieces represent the most comprehensive, boundless, colossal, thrilling, soulful pantheon of glory that anyone could ever possibly create for one of the world's greatest composers.

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

Music is a high revelation!


Mincho painted Beethoven for 16 years and the result was 36 masterpieces.

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

I want to take Fate by the throat!


In Paris, he opened three successive exhibitions:

  • in 1942 (during the war when Paris was occupied) in the gallery "La Boétie"

  • in 1946 in the "Pleyel" gallery

  • in 1949 in the "Cambacérès" gallery.

The result is lightning fast!

Mincho is becoming extremely popular!

Joy, bright God-spark born of Ever

Daughter of fresh paradise—

Where you walked once now walk rancor,

Greed, suspicion, anger, fright.

Joy, the breeze off all that’s holy,

Pure with terror, wild as flame.

Make us brothers, give us comfort,

Bid us past such fear and hate.

"Ode to Joy"

Text author: Friedrich Schiller

Music: Beethoven

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

I have friends, but I know that in my art God is dearer to me than people!


He jealously kepts the originals - he does not sell even a single painting!

He showed them to his closest circle of friends.

His dream was to go on tour with these originals - to tour European cities; he also conducted negotiations with America, but due to his deteriorating health, he was unable to realize his dream.

Portrait of Ludwig Van Beethoven by the Bulgarian artist Mincho Todorov Katsarov

O Lord... Hear thy wretch, most wretched of mortals!


In 1953, at the beginning of autumn - on the first day of October, Mincho Katsarov's sunny, infectious, cheerful, happy and dazzling smile faded. Forever!

Artist, you conquered the world!

Iv. Petrov

The originals

After Mincho's death, his wife kept the originals of his paintings for a long time, although they were extremely sought after.

After her death, the originals were scattered around the world in various private collections.

The Russian Museum in Prague kept two of his originals - the portraits of Mikhail Bulgakov and Tanya - Tolstoy's granddaughter, painted by Mincho in Vienna. These portraits were later transferred to the Tolstoy Museum in Moscow.

The original of "In the Steppe", depicting Tolstoy, is kept in the Museum of the Moscow region.

On September 3, 2011, in his birthplace - in the building of the municipality of Brezovo, the Municipal Art Gallery "Mincho Katsarov" was opened.

Today, anyone who wishes can visit Brezovo, go up to the fourth floor of the municipality on a weekday to look at the reproductions and photos of his paintings.

Recognition from Mincho's compatriot - the great Zlatyu Boyadzhiev (also from Brezovo)

Mincho? Mincho is above me!

he said in front of our people and put the four fingers of his left palm above his head

My dear friends, I sincerely hope that this wondrous journey through music and art has touched you as deeply as it has me!

Share your impressions as a comment below, it means a lot to me!

Thank you!

The story continues in the special photo album...

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