Claire Brisby - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Claire Brisby

Search for:

Claire Brisby

Visiting Lecturer

Thesis: The Samokov Archive: Western Art and Icon-Painters in Bulgaria 1800-1850

Supervised by Professor Robin Cormack

The thesis concerns an unpublished archive of prints and drawings used by icon-painters from Samokov in Bulgaria between 1800 and 1850 and, owing to a quantity of western prints surviving in the archive, it assesses the painters’ consciousness of western art.  The archive is unpublished and deserves attention for assessing cultural consciousness in Bulgaria during the National Revival whilst still subject to Ottoman rule because the material was used by eminent painters of the Bulgarian National Revival, Christo and his son Zahari.

The thesis sets out a frame of reference for assessing the contents of the archive and also identified a number of western prints individually.  Equally importantly, assessment of the contents established a group of hitherto overlooked Orthodox prints with evident signs of use to indicate their significance for assessing cultural orientation and, moreover, for estimating the derivative sources of the painters’ western awareness on account of the hybrid western assimilations characterising Orthodox prints, largely produced in western centres of print-manufacture.

The painters’ regard for sources and models was estimated from reconstructing working practices from the material evidence of the archive contents.  The discovery of a number of key examples illustrating the replication of prints in drawings and painting demonstrates a predominating function of Orthodox prints as models for religious painting which questions the scholarly notion of the innovating role of western prints.

Analysis of the icon-painters’ practices recognises their conscious reception of Orthodox prints as unambiguous prototypes of reformed iconography to be the context in which to interpret their selective use of western imagery and style as discounting a conscious aspiration for western art.


  • 2015-2016  Visiting Lecturer  BA1 Topic Course
  • 2014- 2015; 2013-2014
    Teaching Assistant  BA1 Foundations Block
    Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals
  • Director of Art History, Inchbald School of Design
  • Lecturer: Sotheby’s Education, Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Lecturer: Sotheby’s Education, Victoria and Albert Museum

Research interests

  • Cultural perceptions and exchange
    Currently researching Oriental figure painting from English collections.

Selected Publications

  • ‘Zahari Zograph and western consciousness: interpreting working practices in the Samokov painters’ archives 1800-1850,’ Проблеми на Iзкуствотo/Art Studies Quarterly, 4 (2013) 32-35.
  • ‘The Samokov Archive: Western Art and Icon-Painters in Bulgaria 1800-1850,’ Proceedings of the 22nd International Congress of Byzantine Studies, III (Ashgate 2011) 387.
  • ‘The role of Orthodox religious engravings in the Samokov painters’ archive: visual prototypes?’ Series Byzantina, VI (2008) 87-102.
  • ‘An icon of the Bogoroditsa kykkotissa Akathist and Zahari’s use of Orthodox engravings,’ Проблеми на Изкъстбото, 1 (2007) 32-36.
  • ‘The Samokov Archive: nineteenth-century icon-painters’ practice and the perception of Western art,’ Proceedings of the 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies, III (Ashgate 2006) 272-273.
  • ‘An icon of the Theotokos Zoodochos Pighi – Mother of God Life Giving Spring: aspects of later Byzantine art,’ Проблеми на Изкъстбото, 4 (2003) 30-44.
  • ‘Colour and relief on Byzantine sculpture: the contribution of an icon in steatite’, Apollo, vol CXLIV, no 418 (December 1996) 54-58.
  • Three battle pictures by Louis Laguerre (1663-1721) at Grimsthorpe Castle,’ The BRITISH ART Journal, Vol. X, no. 3 (2009/10) 29-34.
  • ‘Druids at Drayton.  Dipping into antiquarianism before the Society of Antiquaries (1717).’ The BRITISH ART Journal, Vol. X, no. 2 (2009) 2-8l
  •  ‘The Paul Laib archive and negative plates of the work by Frank Brangwyn identified’, Collecting and The Courtauld Collections, 2009

Other academic activities

  • 2015 Study Tour: Ottoman urban architecture in Edirne
  • In progress with Bulgarian Cultural Institute, London
    Exhibition: Window on the West: Zahari Zograph, the Samokov painters and western art in the Bulgarian National Revival 1800-1850.
    [exhibiting material from the painter’s archives, National-Art Gallery Sofia and other national institutions in Bulgaria]

Share This

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Close