The Painting collection in SAG is the oldest and richest. Today it houses over 3,700 paintings, whose larger part is performed in oil paint. An also considerable collection is that of watercolours. Being large in terms of time span – from 1878 to date, the collection reveals relatively completely the genre and stylistic characteristics in the development of the Bulgarian fine arts, which allows for almost overall outlining of the artistic processes in the country after the Liberation.
The collection, called in its first years the “picture collection“, was accumulated mainly from donations by municipal and government institutions, as well as of a number of private persons, including artists. The establishment of the gallery as a separate cultural institution in 1952 initiated the purposeful pre-emptive purchase of works from solo and group art exhibitions.
Some artists are represented by one or two works, whereas others – by more than ten. Nevertheless, the collection houses significant works of a number of prominent artists such as Anton Mitov, Ivan Mrkvička, Nikola Petrov, Ivan Milev, Vladimir Dimitrov – Maystora, Dechko Uzunov, Kiril Tsonev, etc. Among this host of masters, there are also paintings by contemporary artists such as Sasho Stoitsov, Milko Bozhkov, Svilen Blazhev, Andrey Daniel, Vihrony Popnedelev, Gredi Assa, Stanislav Pamukchiev, Bozhidar Boyadzhiev, Nedko Solakov, etc.
Being a capital city gallery, SAG has the richest collection of images of Sofia, perpetuated in the canvases of the Bulgarian artists. In it one can see old Sofia with its pre-Liberation markets, Sofia during World War II, to the modern global city with its escalators and new silhouettes. The Painting department also houses one of the brightest collections of portraits of Bulgarian artists and intellectuals. A collection that is still being supplemented today
In 2003, the collection was published in a scientific catalogue.