History of Modern Turkish painting

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This is a short history of Turkish painters from the mid-19th century to the present.


Turkish painting, in the western sense, developed actively starting from the mid 19th century.

Mid-19th century to early 20th century[edit]

The very first painting lessons were scheduled at "Mühendishane-i Berri-i Humayun" (Military School of Engineering) in 1793 mostly for technical purposes. Artists who formed the 19th-century art milieu were often from the military schools. Additionally, Christian and "Levantine" artists as well as foreign painters lived and contributed to the art milieu in Istanbul. Some Turkish artists of military background like Osman Hamdi Bey, Şeker Ahmet Paşa, Süleyman Seyyid, Halil Paşa were educated in arts abroad. Others, such as Hüseyin Zekai Paşa, Hoca Ali Riza, and Ahmet Ziya Akbulut were educated within the country.

"Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi" (School of Fine Arts) was established with Osman Hamdi's attempts in 1883. A new era was beginning in painting with the return of the artists from the West. Human figure in the western sense was being established in Turkish painting especially with Osman Hamdi Bey. Impressionism, among the contemporary trends, appeared later on with Halil Paşa.

The "Ottoman Painters' Society" was formed in 1909. The society started exhibitions in 1916 continuing till 1952 on a regular basis that would be remembered as "Galatasaray Exhibitions".

The "1914 Generation"[edit]

Contemporary trends that emphasize figure start to appear gradually in Turkey with the "1914 Generation". Figure and composition entered the Turkish painting for the first time in the western sense with this generation. "Inas Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi" (School of Fine Arts for Girls) was founded for young women in 1914. Mihri Müşfik Hanım, Omer Adil and Feyhaman Duran were the first instructors.

A studio was built with army support in Şişli, a district of Istanbul, with Arseven's attempt in 1917. Hüseyin Avni Lifij's "Progress" and "War Allegory", Ibrahim Çallı's "Cannon Carrier", Mehmet Ruhi's "Stone Breakers" were the first examples of multi figured and large dimensional compositions realised prior to and following this period. Right after the Şişli Studio, the Vienna Exhibition was held in 1918, the first exhibition abroad.

Müstakiller (The Independents)[edit]

The young Turkish artists sent to Europe in 1926 came back inspired by contemporary trends such as Fauvism, Cubism and even Expressionism, still very influential in Europe, and they took a stand against the "1914 Generation" members. The important goals of this new group were, though not very absolute, pictorial design structure and linear foundation rather than impressionist colorism. The activities of the group under the name of "Independent Painters and Sculptors' Association", expanded with the participation of new artists in 1929. The association's founders were mostly painters

The group was later joined by Turgut Zaim (1904-1974), who integrated Turkish folk art into the new forms developed by Çelebi and Kocamemi.

"The Group D"[edit]

While the "Müstakiller" (the Independents) opened the doors of contemporary trends in Turkey, we see a newly founding group which would give a greater support to these efforts and of which their effectiveness lasted until the 1950s: "Group D". Group members were:

The most significant distinction of "Group D" from the "Independents" was perhaps that they had gathered around a certain aesthetics with solidarity in determination to defend the new trends they wanted to bring in. "Group D" had not been representative of any particular view. They were open to anything new except Impressionism. The star of the Çallı generation faded away gradually after the "Independents" and "Group D" members had started to work at the Academy.

Besides all this progress, from the beginning there had also been independent artists. Among these

can be counted.

Later on

took place in this trend.

"Yeniler Grubu" (The Newcomers Group) late 1930s[edit]

formed by those who had a social realist understanding. After they opening of their "Harbour Paintings Exhibition", they had been remembered as the "Harbour Painters".

"On'lar Grubu" (The Group Ten) 1947[edit]

formed by the students of Bedri Rahmi who started working basically by adding folkloric ornaments in their works and added a freshness to the art milieu

"Yeni Dal Grubu" (The New Branch Group) 1959[edit]

focusing on social reality.

"Siyah Kalem Grubu" (The Black Pen Group) 1961[edit]

The Siyah Kalem Grubu was centered around Cemal Bingöl's studio.


Turkish painting has continued to flourish since the 1960s, with an increasing rate of development, as evidenced by many new artists in many different styles.

Museums and collectors[edit]

Institutions and persons with collections of important Turkish paintings:


  • Ankara Museum of Painting and Sculpture
  • Doğançay Museum
  • Istanbul Modern
  • İzmir Museum of Painting and Sculpture
  • Military Museum, Istanbul
  • National Library, Ankara
  • Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture
  • Pera Museum
  • State Art Galleries in many cities of Turkey
  • Turkish General Staff Headquarters, Ankara
  • Turkish Grand National Assembly, Ankara

Collectors and galleries:


  1. ^ "Huma Kabakcı Koleksiyonu". Humakabakcikoleksiyonu.com. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  2. ^ "Link: Huma & Nahit Kabakci Collection Of Contemporary Arts". Yourartlinks.com. Retrieved 2010-11-07.