Settled in a region rich in ancient and early Christian monuments, much larger than the territory of the current Bulgaria, the ancient Bulgarian kingdom presents in its artistic and architectural manifestations interesting and problematic links with the late ancient, Sassanid and Byzantine world: significant examples are the rock sculpture of Madara (8th-9th century), the ruins of the palace of the ancient capital Pliska (9th century), the treasure of Nagyszentmiklós (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). In religious architecture, next to churches with a basilica shape with vaulted roofs, we find the complex circular plan of the famous church of Preslav (9th -10th century); the interior is often covered with glazed tiles. Between the 12th and the 14th century. there are numerous churches with a single nave, or cruciform churches of Byzantine inspiration, often with two floors (churches-mausoleum). Among the cycles of frescoes we especially remember those of the SS. Forty Martyrs of Tirnovo (1230), of S. Pantalemone in Bojana (1259), of S. Giorgio in Sofia (12th-14th century).
After the Turkish conquest (1303) Bulgarian art did not develop parallel to that of Western Europe, formulating its own popular language completely under the influence of the monastic art of Mount Athos. No important buildings were built. Many inhabited centers had a Turkish appearance (Vraca, 17th-18th century, Berkoviza and Razgrad, 1764; Slatiza, 1777 etc.). There are some noteworthy wooden constructions (Kotel, Drenovo, Trevna), often with carvings showing eclectic influences (Turkish, Baroque, etc.).
After the peace of Adrianople (1829) the architectural activity had a moment of development: among the most notable works, the reconstruction of the monastery of Rila (1834-37); religious painting also flourished and many local schools arose which dedicated themselves to the decoration of the new buildings (in Samokov, Razlog and Krušovo). After independence (1878) many artists went to study abroad, especially in France, Germany and Italy. In 1896 a school of painting was founded in Sofia, then transformed (1921) into an Academy of Fine Arts. The main monument of modern architecture is the Sofia Cathedral, designed by the Russian A. Pomerancev, richly decorated by Bulgarian and Russian artists. From the 1940s to 1957-58 Bulgarian art and architecture were subject to the canons of socialist realism (Veliko Tărnovo Library and Museum, in pseudo-Renaissance style). After the 1960s, art and architecture in Bulgaria refer to international trends. The cities are enriched with buildings characterized by a monumental architectural style, with finely decorated interiors, functional for various uses: theaters, galleries and museums, congress centers, auditoriums (National Palace of Culture, by A. Barov, 1981). Architecture from the last decades of the 20th century. alternates technologically characterized tall buildings, to a small-scale residential building (houses and villas) characterized by references to a traditional local language. Important tourist and architectural development on the Black Sea coast (La Nave, administrative headquarters of the Bross company in Varna, 2005).
According to ehotelat, art in Bulgaria, as in many Eastern European countries, on the one hand is directed towards the revival of traditional local motifs, on the other it is aimed at an international comparison. Since the 1960s in painting and graphics, artistic weaving and ceramics, artists have developed new trends and technical skills in line with contemporary orientations; sculpture in small dimensions, in different materials, has become a popular art form, although few artists work exclusively as sculptors, such as V. Starčev (b.1935), G. Čapkanov (b.1943), S. Kalinov (no. 1944). In the early 1980s, numerous monumental sculptures were created for the celebrations of the 1300th anniversary of the founding of the Bulgarian state, such as those of Starčev in Sofia, in front of the National Palace of Culture (1981), and of K. Damjanov in Shumen (1981) and in Veliko Tărnovo (1985). In the 1990s, many artists drew on Western models and, in particular, contemporary American ones; others are critically confronted with both ethnic or national matrices and the international experiences of the beginning of the century and the historical avant-gardes, as happens in the work of S. Milanova (b.1956) which represented the Bulgaria at the Biennale di Venice in 1993.
Due to the difficult diffusion of video means and new technologies and the lack of an experimental tradition in the field of film, video art and video installations have established themselves in Bulgaria only since the 1990s, through events such as the International Festival of video art. of Sofia, inaugurated in 1999, and the work of artists such as V. Zankov, Bulgaria Dobrev, Bulgaria Dragoeva, K. Serapionov, S. Nikolov, A. Mihailova.