The first people who inhabited the land of future Bulgarians lived as early as the Stone Age, and the first known works of art date from the end of V- IV millennium B.C. and represent variegated and exquisitely decorated ceramics, idol plastic arts, clay temple models, skilfully made flint tools. The rock drawings in the Magura cave and the rich necropolis near Varna on the Black Sea stand out among the finds. The excavations revealed graves with more than 300 objects of pure gold – the oldest processed gold in Europe.
The Thracian treasures have long since provoked admiration all round the world and have been exhibited in many countries. The Vulchitrun gold treasure is the oldest among them. The Panagyurishte gold treasure made of pure gold dates also from that period. The Rogozen gold treasure is the biggest; it was found in northwest Bulgaria and consists of 165 gold-plated silver vessels from the second half of 5th century and the first half of 4th century B.C. Two other treasures – found near Vratsa and near Borovo – also date from the beginning of 4th century B.C.
One of the remarkable sites of old Bulgaria is Perperikon – a multi-storey palace and sanctuary in the eastern part of Rhodope Mountain, located at 15 km to the north-east of today’s town of Kardzhali. The palace has an area of over 10,000 sq.m and more than 50 separate premises – halls, rooms, underground mausoleums with tombs, corridors, indoor staircases. A unique example of Bulgarian monumental plastic arts is the Madara Rider in northeast Bulgaria – the only one in Europe dating from that period (8th – 9th century).
In 893 the capital of Bulgaria moved to Veliki Preslav, which was built in such a manner as to compete with the capital of the great Roman Empire – Constantinople. Veliki Preslav impressed with its numerous monasteries and domains of high aristocrats, all built of stone, marble and decorated with mosaics.
The period of the reign of Tsar Simeon was called Golden Age of Bulgarian Culture. Monumental sculpture, painting and crafts developed along with architecture. The first Bulgarian writers appeared – Ioan Exarch, Constantine of Preslav, Chernorizets Hrabar, Kliment of Ohrid and Naum.
During the Second Bulgarian Kingdom Bulgarian arts blossomed. The mural paintings of Boyana Church (1259), the frescoes in the rock-hewn churches of Ivanovo and numerous icon paintings are masterpieces. The towns of Koprivshtitsa and Plovdiv are real wonders of the architecture of the Bulgarian national revival.
The centre of the new capital was architecturally remarkable with the palace of the tsar, the National Assembly building, the National Theatre building, Alexandr Nevski Memorial Church. The imposing National Palace of Culture was built in the 70-ies of 20th century.
Bulgarian art of the beginning of 20th century is characterised by variety in genre and style. Outstanding are the portraits painted by N.Mihailov and Ts. Todorov, the landscapes of A. Mihov and A. Mutafov, the aquarelles of Konstantin Shtarkelov, the drawings of Ilia Beshkov, A. Bojinov and Boris Angelushev. National motifs are expressed in the works of the painters Ivan Markvichka, Tsanko Lavrenov, Zlatyu Boyadjiev, Vladimir Dimitrov the Master, and many others. The paintings of Iliya Petrov and Dechko Uzunov are distinguished for their exquisiteness.
A group of artists from Plovdiv stood out in the field of pictorial and plastic arts in the 60-ies: Dimitar Kirov, Georgi Bojilov, Yoan Leviev, Hristo Stefanov and Encho Pironkov. Modern artistic trends develop in the work of the painters A. Yaranov, Dimitar Kazakov, I. Kirkov, Svetlin Rusev and others; the black-and-white artists R. Skorchev, P. Chuklev, S. Stoilov, S. Stoyanov and others; the sculptors L. Dalchev, V. Minekov, V. Starchev, G. Chapkanov and others.