The Magic of Paris

Seen Through the Lens of Boré Ivanoff

Introduction: “An Artist Has No Home in Europe Except in Paris”

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) proclaimed an artist has no true home in Europe except in Paris. This certainly seems to be the case for Boré Ivanoff. The Bulgarian-born artist moved to the French capital, and it became his main subject almost immediately. But what is precisely so magical about Paris for artists? And even more, is Paris as a home for artists a nostalgic vision, or is it still relevant today?

The aforementioned German philosopher was not the only one who lauded the French capital as a magical city. Lee Radziwill (1933-2019) claimed, “Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. It brings tears to your eyes.” And Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) stated, “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.”

As a result, it comes as no surprise to see Paris has been a favorite subject or setting throughout art history. Think of the iconic painting Paris Street; Rainy Day (see image below) by Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) or The Boulevard Montmartre at Night by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). In Paris, one does not need to search long for beauty or an exciting setting; you must open your eyes and see its beauty, diversity, and history.

Today, in the artistic tradition of Caillebotte and Pissarro, we add the contemporary painter Boré Ivanoff. He is best known for his Paris city scenes and urban landscapes. He plays with reflections, transparency, dizzying perspectives, and more, reinvigorating the vibrant city life in his painterly practice. His compositions are utmost contemporary, experimenting with the interplay between photographic realism and abstraction.

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877. Oil on canvas – 212.2 × 276.2 cm.

One Can Only Depict A City, If One Knows A City

I can’t think of anyone who speaks more passionately about Paris than Boré Ivanoff. The Bulgarian artist works with a gallery located in one of the most beautiful, arty, and most Parisian quarters of Paris; Saint Germain dès Près. As a true Parisian, Ivanoff enjoys having a nice glass of French wine, listening to some Jazz, and preferably in a location filled with history and Paris’ magic.

For instance, the hotel at the Rue des Beaux-Arts, the same street where Francis Bacon had a solo exhibition, and the hotel where Oscar Wilde lived his final days. Iconic. He knows his spots and can never get enough of these magical places in Paris. And rightfully so.

Ivanoff aims to discover the genealogy of the beings who lived in these places, selecting both beautiful and disturbing spots. His subject matter is the daily life of the City of Light. Whereas everyday life might be ordinary in other cities, with Ivanoff and Paris, daily life becomes extraordinary.

Whereas Caillebotte and Pissarro were interested in depicting the efflorescence of Modern life and Impressionism as the eminent visual language to depict Modern life, Boré Ivanoff transforms contemporary life in Paris into a pictorial motif.

Boré Ivanoff, Feux d Artifice sur Canal Saint-Martin, Paris 10ème, 2014. Oil on linen – 61 x 46 cm. Courtesy the artist.
Photo of Passarelle Bichat at the Canal Saint-Martin, Paris

His passion for urban architecture is reminiscent of the aforementioned impressionist masters, adding new and contemporary dimensions to it. The thing Ivanoff succeeds in—as Caillebotte and Pissarro were able to do—is to recreate the feeling and spirit of the selected places, but also to capture the city’s changing character.

In Modern times, the world was changing rapidly, which is reflected in art history. Think of the ‘snapshot’ qualities of impressionist painting, painting a la prima, or the Copernican revolution of new -isms at the start of the 20th century. Today, the pace of a changing world has not slowed down; on the contrary. The pace of technological progress in the 21st century rises almost exponentially, which is strongly noticeable in a metropole such as Paris.

Arguably, this is reflected similarly with Boré Ivanoff in the contemporary era as with the impressionists in Modern times. The rapid flashes of the reflection of the glass, recurring patterns, and dazzling complex compositions seem to be a visual translation of these changes. For instance, with his painting Louvre-Saint-Honoré, Paris 1er from 2019, Ivanoff creates an utmost complex composition, evoking movement, a dynamic velocity and incorporating various visual elements from a Paris street view.

We recognize the gallery structure of the round arches, the typical Parisian street lighting, and the iconic wrought iron balconies on the first floor. But also, at the bottom of the picture, we also recognize the electric and public bicycles available in Paris – an almost anachronistic element in the traditional Parisian setting. In doing so, Ivanoff’s paintbrush has one foot in history, the painterly tradition of depicting the daily life of Paris, and the other in the present, both visually and conceptually.

Boré Ivanoff, Louvre-Saint-Honoré, Paris 1er, 2019. Oil on linen – 70 x 70 cm. Courtesy the artist.

Conclusion: Painting Portraits of Paris—A New Synthesis

As a result, one could state Boré Ivanoff succeeds in painting contemporary portraits of the city itself, transcending urban landscape painting. It can be a minefield to aim to depict scenes as Boré does, with the luring pitfall of being a nostalgic and obsolete painter. However, what could have been a breaking point becomes his greatest strength, escaping categorization and finding a new synthesis for contemporary urban landscape painting.

The Bulgarian-born artist has become a true Parisian. To paint it accurately, one needs to know the city, and Boré knows Paris very well. He depicts the City of Light as no other artist has ever done. He follows the footsteps of iconic masters such as Gustave Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro. Even more, he tends to go a step further, transforming the changing contemporary life into a pictorial motif and an anachronism, or a conflict for the viewer to solve. Doing so, Boré Ivanoff brings urban landscape painting in Paris to the 21st century.

For further reading on Boré Ivanoff, we highly recommend you to read our artist spotlight on the artist in question here.

Boré Ivanoff, Arts sur Place des Vosges, Paris 3ème, 2017-2018. Oil on linen – 70 x 70 cm. Courtesy the artist.