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He was born in Horhor district in Aksaray, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire. He graduated in 1901 from the School of Political Science, where he had enrolled due to his father's opposition to his ambition to be an artist. With the death of his father in that same year, he entered the Academy of Fine Arts Istanbul, where he studied with Warnia and Valeri.
Preferring to paint from nature, Nazmi Ziya Güran rebelled against the rules of academic art. The visit of the Frenchpost-Impressionist painter Paul Signac to Istanbul in 1905 provided him with fresh inspiration. His teacher Warnia disapproved of the direction his painting was taking, and Güran was denied a diploma in 1907, although he received it the following year.
Painting by Nazmi Ziya Guran, early 20th century
He went to Paris, studying briefly at the Académie Julian and also with Fernand Cormon, with whom Toulouse-Lautrec had studied years earlier. Güran had a successful exhibition in 1912, before traveling to Germany and Austria in 1913. On his return to Turkey he served as both administrator and teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts, in addition to running a private studio. In a manner similar to Claude Monet, he was known to paint the same subject at different times of day in order to study the changing light.