TURKISH GRAPHIC ARTS
Turkish graphic arts history cannot be thought apart from Turkish printing history considering graphics is one of the most important activities ensuring exchanges of knowledge among the sections forming the society. The graphic arts exist as long as its products are printed and spread out. Hence Turkish graphic history begins in our country with the foundation of the first printing house.
The founding of the first printing house was influenced by provocations aroused gradually by late influences of the Renaissance in the closed cultural environment and by the beginning of material components dominating patterns of thought and behavior of religious contents. The first cradle of our contemporary graphic arts, the first printing house was formed during the reign of Sultan Ahmet III with the cooperation of Said Celebi ( ?-1761) the son of Yirmisekiz Mehmet Celebi ( ?-1732) who had worked a short period at the French Embassy and Ibrahim Efendi (1674-1745). It would be an appropriate but delayed appreciation to consider Ibrahim Efendi as the founder of this art.
Ibrahim Muteferrika printed three maps and sixteen books between 1729 and 1745. Among these several carry a particular importance in our graphic history: Vankulu Lugati was the first book applied in letter set in the printing process of the Arabic writing used during eight hundred years by moslemized Turks, Tarih-i Hind-i Garbi was the first illustration book, Cihannuma was the first book with maps and drawings, Grammaire Turque was the first book during the Ottoman Empire printing history in which Latin writing had been used.
It was not easy to cast letter from the Arabic alphabet because the letter case had had to consist of five hundred pieces. It should be remembered that letter cases with Latin letters consisted only of about one hundred pieces. The only reason of the late development of two hundred years after Gutenberg of printing in our country was the unbelievable crowdedness of pieces constituting a case and not religious constraints as some still claim.
After the printing house of Muteferrika, Muhendishane Basimevi was built at Haskoy in 1796 and Dar-ut-tibaa at Uskudar in 1802. A big and colored Turkish geographic atlas, the Cedid Atlas Tercemesi from Mahmut Raif Efendi, was printed here. This book was a printing and drawing phenomenum. Another graphically valuable work from him named Tableaux des Nouveaux Reglements de l’Empire Ottoman included twenty eight drawing-pictures.
In order to print the first official newspaper Takvim-i Vekayi the printing house of Takvimhane-i Amire was founded in 1831. The same year the first lithography printer started to work. This could be regarded as a revolution in our printing history. Lithography would be used in the future years in more books and printed products in public leading to pictured folk books and folk pictures decorating coffeehouse walls. The first newspapers in Turkish were published in the 1990’s. Some advertisements of poor quality were seen in their pages. We know the first official paper money had been printed in the same years. During this period more than fifty printing houses had been functioning in different sections of Istanbul, moreover printing had been entering the business sector in some cities of Anatolia.
A new and original era had prospered in the graphic history with Ebuzziya Tevfik (1849-1913). He earned a respectful place in the field with his tasteful and meticulous products as he was a multi-dimensional person with accomplishments as calligrapher, writer, journalist, historian and printer.
The first postage stamps were put in usage after the 1850’s. Postcards also showed a rich variety towards the end of the century.
A new field opened up for graphic products by means of the beginning of the magazine publishing with Vekayi-i Tibbiye at 1850 and Mecmua-i Funun at 1862; we also observe an increase in passages accompanied by drawings. Announcements by illustrations were often published in newspapers after the 1880’s and in magazines toward the end of the century. The print of the Salname/Annual that began in 1867 had soon spread through the cities of the empire and then had lead to the printing of private annuals followed by callendars. Ebuzziya Tevfik gave the most successful examples in this field.
Pioneers of our printing history like Ahmet Mithat, Sinasi, Ahmet Ihsan participated a great deal in spreading around the graphic products at the end of the century with newspapers like Tercuman-i Ahval, Tasvir-i Efkar, Tercuman-i Hakikat and magazines like Mecmua-i Ebuzziya, Servet-i Funun.
Another important graphic event of the time was the entry of the of the caricature to the Turkish Press. We owe this to the humor magazine Diyojen which Teodor Kasap published first in 1870.
Announcements by illustrations both in newspapers and magazines increased a great deal with the freedom of the Press post-1908 Mesrutiyet. It could be said that the promotion firms of today originated with the appearance of the first Advertising Firm in 1909. Due to the economic collapse stemming from the wars of Balkan, First World and Independence the promotion graphic that recently blossomed dried out.
Meanwhile graphics of book covers had begun simultaneously with the first products of Turkish book publishing and it had given quite successful products in the hands of unknown artists. Ebuzziya Tevfik had contributed efforts in the first conscious composition in this field. Let us also give credit to Ahmet Ihsan for the success of the covers of the Servet-i Funun magazines and book publications. Munif Fehim had specially brought a particular flavor to book covers for more than forty years. After the language reform Ihap Hulusi and Ali Suavi were the most effective cover designers.
During that period when etatisme was approved as an administrative system, large state institutions like the State Railroads, the maritime Lines, Sumerbank, Inhisarlar Idaresi (Today Monopoly), the Redcrescent, Turkish Aircraft Institution, Child Welfare Institution etc. were in need of multi-dimensional graphic products to advertise their works to customers. Ihap Hulusi was the only artist to be remembered of this period that ended with the beginning of the Second World War.
Illustrations of books, magazines, newspapers did not give forth quality products till recent years. Influences, transfers of foreign publications were seen frequently. Cevat Sakir and Munif Fehim had original works of their own in this field.
The first posters in our country must have been done in the first fifteen years of this century. We do not know which are the first examples and who did them. Ihap Hulusi was again the true specialist of the topic. After having returned from Germany in 1925 from his education in graphics, he was the only person in this field till the 1960’s. Mithat Ozar who was educated in arts in France raised the first poster designers at the Fine Arts Academy where he established a studio in 1932. These graduates gave products between 1940 and 1950.After the 1950’s artists like Mesut Manioglu, Selcuk Oral had better and more competent works compared to former artists.
The graphics, in all divisions, opened out to the public in forms of coherent and adequate application after the 1960’s. The basic reason was the assortment of products and consequently the marketing fact. These circumstances developed with the efforts of few artists who took graphics seriously within the scope of the plastic arts. The graphics reached its peek today uniting the novelty of the printing technology with the experiences of advertisement agencies.
The main graphic artists who shared the responsibility of this process for thirty years were: Emin Barin, an expert skilled specially in calligraphy and typography; the writer of these words who produced in all branches of graphics but became famous by drawing over six thousand books and magazine covers; Yurdaer Altintas who executed a new esthetics in his posters for theater which he started to draw in the 60’s; Mengu Ertel who maintained successfully a level in making only posters for theater; Erkal Yavi, Bulent Erkmen, Sadi Pektas, Aydin Erkmen, Cemalettin Mutver, Aydin Ulken, Sadik Karamustafa, Fahri Karagozoglu, Emre Senan, Savas Cevik … who showed efficiency in many branches like poster, book cover, emblem, packing planning, art directorship.
At present graphics is an occupation existing widely. It was activated further under the mutual influence of many advertisement agencies’ increasing business volumes, of many corporations’ increase in quantity and need to graphic products, of many artists of richer experiences, technical knowledge and equipment.
Sait Maden: Baslangicindan Bugune Turk Grafik Sanati/Turkish Graphics from the Beginning till Today (Cevre-Mimarlik ve Gorsel Sanatlar Magazine, 1979-80, edition 1,2,3,4,5,7,9)
Sait Maden: Turk Grafik Sanatinin Dunu, Bugunu/The Yesterday, Today of Turkish Graphic Arts (Cumhuriyet Donemi Turkiye Encyclopedia, 1984, vol 3)