Ivan Milev Lalev was a Bulgarian painter and scenographer regarded as the founder of the Bulgarian Secession and a representative of Bulgarian modernism, combining symbolism, Art Nouveau and expressionism in his work.
Ivan Milev was born in the town of Kazanlak in the family of shepherd Milyu Lalev. In 1917–1918, he fought as a soldier in World War I. On 18 November 1918, the same year that he finished high school in his hometown, he arranged an exhibition in Kazanlak. For two years he was a teacher in Gorski Izvor, Haskovo Province. In 1920, he was admitted to the National Academy of Arts in Sofia, where he studied under Prof. Stefan Badzhov, and had three one-man exhibitions. He also contributed to the communist comic magazine Red Laughter as an illustrator and cartoonist.
In the summer of 1923, he visited Turkey, Greece and Italy with a group of fellow students. He was introduced to the achievements of the Italian Renaissance and the Italian Baroque in Rome, Naples, Florence and Venice. In 1926, he graduated in set decoration from the National Academy and worked for the Ivan Vazov National Theatre as a stage designer.