Painting in the western sense started to develop in Turkey in the nineteenth century. Artists such as Namik Ismail, Ibrahim Calli, Avni Lifij, Feyheman Duran and Hikmet Onat, who had their art education in Europe in the 1910s, became impressionists. These artists, who are known as the 1914 Generation , influenced the development of painting in the early Republic Period. Extensive research carried out by Public Centers (Halkevleri) on Anatolian peoples’ art and culture in the 1930s influenced many artists and caused them to deal with the issues raised in the wake of the findings of the research.

In this period, the D Group, established by Zeki Faik Izer, Nurullah Berk, Elif Naci, Cemal Tollu, Abidin Dino and sculptor Zuhtu Muridoglu, ignored the impressionist tendencies and set out to create a joint language, and sought to achieve a synthesis between certain elements of traditional Turkish art and the ideas of the new art movements in Europe, between local color and western techniques and between domestic “soul” and the universal artistic ideals

Within the art and culture development program, which gained momentum after the 1930s, the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul, which was called Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi until 1936, was restructured. It was taken under the structure of the Ministry of National Education. A French artist, Leopold Levy, was appointed as the chairman of the painting department between 1949 and 1950. Levy’s students founded a group aptly called the Yeniler Grubu (The New Group) which was the most important group in the field of painting after the D Group and which experimented with new styles and new techniques. The members of this group, who continued exhibitions until 1955, were focused on social issues in the beginning, but later distanced themselves from the social-realistic manner of expression.

In the 1950s, when the art movements were followed more closely, the first abstract painters emerged in Turkey. Among these are Adnan Coker, Lutfu Gunay, Semsi Arel, Abidin Elderoglu and Sabri Berkel who tried to give a traditional and local touch to abstract forms by using calligraphy. Neset Gunal’s paintings on social issues, the miniature-like paintings of Devrim Erbil, Cihat Burak’s paintings which have traces from folk art, the animal figures and Anatolian landscapes of Orhan Peker which he painted with staining techniques, are all examples of the diversity of figurative tendencies in the 1960s and the 1970s. By the 1970s, many artists managed to reach some synthesis between the competing tendencies such as abstract-figurative and universal-domestic. Meanwhile pioneering and experimental works were supported by the annual exhibition “New Tendencies” held within the framework of the Istanbul Art Festival, which was first organized in 1977. Since 1980, conceptual art works are also common along with the traditional paintings on canvas.


The Ottomans inherited the art of miniature painting from the Seljuks. During the reign of Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Sultan Mehmet The Conqueror), well-known artists were brought to Istanbul and they created the first important Ottoman miniatures. Bayezid the Second took a step further and set up workshops in the palace for these artists. The art of miniature painting reached its peak in the 16th century. Famous miniaturists, for example, Matrakçı Nasuh, Nigari, and Osman were trained during this period. In the 17th century, miniature paintings continued to be produced by famous artists as Nakkaş Hasan and Nakşi. During this century, the influence of European art began to be witnessed in miniatures. In the Gazneli Mahmut period (1685), large still-life and landscape paintings were seen. At the beginning of the 18th century, that is during the Tulip Period, this influence became even more evident. Wall paintings were used as architectural decoration instead of tiles. The Fruit Room of Ahmet the Second in Topkapı Place, is adorned with fruit and floral paintings.

The use of flowers, mosques and landscapes as architectural decoration can also be seen in the art created in Anatolia and in the Balkans.

Abdülmecit Efendi

Şeker Ahmet Ali Paşa

Turkish painting with a western concept was taught in the Mühendishane-i Berr-i Hümayun (The Imperial Naval Engineering School) which opened in 1795 during the reign of Selim III. Painting courses were offered and the first painters were trained in this school. At the beginning of the 19th century, Mahmut the Second had his portrait painted and hung on the walls of governmental offices. Painting courses were included in the curricula of this institution in 1827 and also in the Military Academy which opened in 1834. Some students were even sent to Europe for advanced studies in painting. The School for Civil Servants which opened in 1868 and the Darüşşafaka Preparatory School which opened in 1872 included painting courses in their curricula.

Many Ottoman painters of the 19th century were trained in civilian and military schools, including Beşiktaşlı Tevfik, Giritli Hüseyin, Karagümrüklü Hüseyin, Darüşşafakalı Hüseyin, Mirliva Osman Nuri, Servili Ahmet Emin, Kaymakam Ahmet Şekür, Üsküdarlı Osman and Bedri Kulları.

The first artists sent to England and France for advanced studies were Feri İbrahim Pasha (1815-1889), Ferik Tevfik Pasha (1819-1866) and Hüsnü Yusuf Bey (1817-1861), who were followed by Şeker Ahmet Ali Pasha (1841-1907), Süleyman Seyyit (1842-1913), and H. Zekai Pasha (1860-1906) in the year 1861.

Halil Paşa Hayri Çizel  

Mekteb-i Sultani (The School of the Sultan) was founded in Paris for Turkish painters who were sent to France in the 1860’s during the Tanzimat (Reformist) Period. This school functioned until 1874. Süleyman Seyyit and Ahmet Ali Pasha were the most outstanding of all the artists trained in the workshops of Gérome, Boulanger and Cabanel.

During the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit and Abdülaziz, foreign painters lived on Ottoman territory and produced engravings and paintings. The French painter Guillement who came to İstanbul in 1874 opened a painting workshop. Painters like M. Civanyan and S. Diranyan were trained in this workshop.

The first painting exhibition was held in İstanbul on February 20, 1863. Sultan Abdülaziz removed another taboo when he had a statue of himself mounted on a horse sculpted by Fuller in 1871.

At the beginning of 1882, Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910) was entrusted with the task of having a Higher School of Fine Arts established during the Constitutional Period which began during the reign of Abdülhamit the Second in 1876. Osman Hamdi Bey studied painting in Paris, and he had this school built on March 3, 1883. Later Turkish painters and sculptors studied art in this school. The artists Ömer Adil (1868-1924), Osman Asaf (1869-1935), Tekezade Sait (1870-?), Mehmet Muazzez Özduygu (1871-1950), İsmail Hakku Altunbezer (1871-1910) and Şevket Dal (1876-1944) were amongst the first graduates of this school.

Bedri Kulları  

During the reign of Abdülhamit the Second, three officials who studied art at the Naval Academy, Mülazım-ı Ressam İhsan, Naval Officer İsmail Hakkı (1863-1939) and Diyarbakırlı Tahsin acquired a reputation for their naval scenes. Üsküdarlı Cevat Göktengiz (Cevat Göktengiz from Üsküdar) (1871-1939), Sadık Göktuna (1876-1951), Mehmet Ali Laga (1878-1947), Kaymakam Remzi (District Governor Remzi) (1864-1937) and M. Sami Yetik (1876-1945) who studied art at the military academy also acquired a reputation. In addition, Halil Paşa (Halil Pasha) (1857-1939) and Hoca Ali Rıza (Hodja Ali Rıza) (1858-1930) pioneered the development of impressionist techniques. They were also students of the military academy.

“The Ottoman Painters’ Association”, the first organization set up for painters, was founded in 1908.The Association began publishing a periodical in 1910. In 1921 the name of the Association was changed to the “Turkish Painters’ Association”.

Bedri Rahmi Eyüpoğlu  

The first trend towards impressionism was observed in 1910 in the works of artists who graduated from the Higher School of Fine Arts, İbrahim Çallı (1882-1960), Hüseyin Avni Lifij (1886-1927), Namık İsmail Sebük (1890-1935), Nazmi Ziya Güran (1881-1937), Feyhaman Duran (1886-1970), A. Hikmet Onat (1882-1977) and M.

Ruhi Arel (1880-1931, who worked in the impressionist style, were given the opportunity to study in France, Germany and Italy. As a result of the outbreak of World War I, these painters returned home. They were known as the “Çallı Generation”, the “1914 Generation” or “Turkish Impressionists”, and they brought a new approach to Turkish painting. “The Galatasaray Exhibitions” which were held at the Galatasaray Lycee after 1914, played an important role in the recognition of the “Çallı Generation”. “Galatasaray Exhibitions” continued to be held for a certain period of time during the Republican period. In 1914 the Higher School of Fine Arts For Girls was founded. The first female Turkish painters studied at this school. In 1925 it merged with the Higher School of Fine Arts.

İbrahim Çallı Ali Efendi

In 1917 a painting studio was established by the Ministry of Defense in Şişli, İstanbul and the painters were asked to draw pictures which described heroism and bravery. M. Sami Yetik, M. Ali Laga, İbrahim Çallı, A. Hikmet Onat, Ali Sami Boyar (1880-1967), M. Ruhi Arel, Ali Cemal Benim (1881-1941) and other painters of the 1914 generation worked in this studio. 143 pictures which were produced in this studio were displayed in Vienna and Berlin.

In 1923, through the support of Ali Haydar, who was Governor of Istanbul, the first private painting course was opened in İstanbul under the name “The Independent Studio of Painting.” M. Ruhi Arel, İbrahim Çallı, A. Hikmet Onat taught male and female students separately in this studio. During the same year, Şeref Akdik (1902-1972), Sami Özeren (1902-1964), Refik Epikman (1902-1974), Elif Naci (1898-1988), Mahmut Cuda (1904-1987), Muhittin Sebati (1902-1935), Ali Avni Çelebi (1904-1993), Zeki Kocamemi (1902-1959) and Cevat Dereli (1900-1989) who graduated from the Higher School of Fine Arts, established a new association named “New Association of Painting.

Turkish painting which was first influenced by the West in the 18th century and developed in the 19th and the 20th centuries, continued to develop in the Republican period by closely following the developments that took place in the world of painting.

The Higher School of Fine Arts was renamed the Academy of Fine Arts in 1928 and Mimar Sinan University in 1982. Turkish painters and sculptors were also trained in art institutes, fine arts faculties of universities, educational faculties, through courses opened by the Ministry of Culture and private painting studios. Moreover, many Turkish painters studied abroad. Today approximately 500 Turkish painters are working in this field and contribute to Turkish art in the international
arena by creating valuable works.

Darüşşafakalı Hüseyin


In the nakkaşhane, the imperial Ottoman scriptorium, nearly sixty illustrated manuscripts were produced during Süleyman’s reign. These include genealogies, biographies, and religious, poetic, and literary texts in Persian and Turkish, as well as albums containing Turkish, Persian, and European specimens of painting, drawing, and calligraphy.

The Ottomans excelled in the production of illustrated historical texts, and within this genre, the classical Ottoman style of illustration was established. Although the tradition of commissioning histories was not unique to the Islamic world, no other dynasty equaled the Ottoman in the sheer quantity of narratives produced. These illustrated works included general histories of the dynasty, biographies of individiual sultans, and narratives of specific events such as military campaigns and festive occasions.

The first illustrated history was a Şehname (Book of Kings) by Melik Ümmü, written c. 1500 for Sultan Beyazid II (r. 1481-1512). During the long rule of Süleyman I (r. 1520-66), Ottoman historiography flourished with magnificient works such as the Süleymanname of Fethullah ‘Arif Çelebi (‘Arifi’), a five-volume history completed in 1558. The illustrations contained in the fifth volume, which covers thirty-five years of Süleyman’s reign, were painted by the sultan’s senior artist and his colleagues. These works, which gloriously recorded contemporary events such as ceremenoies, parades, and battles, served as prototypes for Ottoman artists for at least two centuries.


The bazaar painters constitute an era of folk painting first found in Istanbul in the 17th century. The term “Bazaar Painters” is, as the name suggests, used to refer to professional folk painters with shops in the bazaar who painted pictures on subjects commissioned by their customers. That so little attention has been given to the topic is due to the almost complete absence, with a few exceptions, of any examples of their work in Turkish museums or libraries. As we shall see in this study, the albums containing specimens of their work are to be found mainly in museums and libraries outside of Turkey or in private collections. Could the reason for this be that only foreigners were customers of bazaar painters? It is certainly true that the majority of their customers were foreigners. Just as modern tourists buy postcards and slides, or take photographs or video tapes, as souvenirs of the places they have seen, foreign travelers in the 17th century would either buy pictures, if available, of subjects that interested them, or, if none were at hand, commission pictures from the bazaar painters. They would then collect them in albums and write under the pictures in their own language (mostly in French and Italian). Undoubtedly, there were also Turkish buyers. But very few of the pictures they bought have survived. This stems from our own negative attitudes, such as our failures, unlike most Europeans, to show sufficient interest in our own cultural products. One could also interpret it as a result of a certain difference in our approach to figurative representation. And yet another reason may be that most of these paintings are on erotic themes, they would be stolen from others or done away with.

I have tried to draw up an inventory of the bazaar painters’ albums scattered in various countries, and embark on the examination of these. The number of albums that emerged was far greater than I had expected. It is obviously impossible to list all of these here, but I give the principal albums below according to the countries in which they were found.

Turkey: There are two albums in the Ankara Ethnographical Museum, one album in the Istanbul Naval Museum and another album in the Istanbul German Archaeological Institute.

Italy: Two albums in Venice, one album in Florence and another one in Bologna. France: There are four albums in the Bibliotheque Nationale.

U.K.: Various albums are to be found in the British Museum and the British Library. There are also two albums in the Oxford Bodleian Library.

Germany: There is one album in Berlin and two three-volume sets in Munich, one being a copy of the other.

Austria: Albums consisting of six volumes are to be found in the National Library in Vienna, some of them being copies of the others.

One volume is to be found in Stockholm/Sweden, one in Leiden/Holland and one in Warsaw/Poland. Besides these, albums can be found in private collections and sales catalogues.

The question to be answered is “What features were common in the court artists and bazaar painters and what were the features by which they are distinguished? It is impossible in a short article to give a detailed answer to this question, but the most important point is that, as they were both products of the same cultural environment, they started off from the sane basic scheme, the approaches adopted by the two circles were quite different. We might say that the court artists applied a method of enhancement, while the bazaar painter applied the method of reduction. In other words, the court artists added a great deal in the way of colour, detail and decoration on the basic scheme. Using more colour and gilt, and going into detail of costume and architectural ornament. The bazaar painters, on the other hand, discarded everything that was not essential. Reduced the range of colour and carried economy to the point of caricature. Little importance was given to proportions, or to anatomy and perspective, which we have referred to as the basic scheme. All methods that would produce light and shade and a three-dimensional effect were ignored, and while elements to which importance was given were exaggerated, the laws of gravity and weight were discarded. The best examples of the basic scheme were the portraits of the sultans. Court artists produced many series of sultans portraits, the album of a later date containing portraits of the later sultans. The same basic scheme was employed in all of them, but reduced in form, the background decoration has been removed.

One may say that the most important distinction between miniature painters is to be found in the delineation of daily life, common men, pictures of various places and buildings in Istanbul, the pictures of buildings that are no longer standing being particularly valuable, family subjects, markets, shops, coffee houses, harem, women of the court etc. Although miniature painters generally avoided these subjects, bazaar painters’ albums contain a large number of these subjects.


Sous-verre or painting under glass was popular in Turkey in the 19th and early 20th centuries. At one time such paintings were to be found not only in houses, but in places of worship, coffeehouses, confectioners, butchers and barbers shops. When girls got married their trousseaus were not complete without a sous-verre painting. Yet today they have become a rarity, and the artists who made them have given up as their customers dwindled. Until 15 years ago it was still possible to find sous-verre paintings on sale in Istanbul, particularly in the Antiquarian Book Market. The artists worked in powder paint, water paint, gouache, oils, and in latter times even in acrylic. They worked on the back of the glass, adding the colours in layers, so that once one colour had been covered, retouching or alteration was impossible. The outline, details, signature and date were executed first, unlike an ordinary painting in which these come last. The artist then filled in the surfaces between the lines, and finally the background. Sous-verre painting was done on sheets of 2-3 mm thick glass, which had to be prepared so that the slippery glass would take the paint. Numerous different techniques were employed for this purpose, such as garlic in some European countries, and gum Arabic or other adhesives, diluted and applied with a brush were common. When the picture was completed it was backed with paper, cardboard, wood or paint to protect it. In Turkey painting under glass was mainly the preserve of untrained folk artists, who neglected to back their pictures, with the result that very few have survived. Different subjects were preferred for homes and work places.

Pictures of Sahmeran, a creature half-human and half-serpent who was a symbol of wisdom, were generally hung in houses, in the belief that they brought good fortune and health. The serpent has been a symbol of womanhood, and hence fertility and abundance, in many places around the world. Another picture is the Seven Sleepers (Eshab-i Kehf) motif, a calligraphic composition in the form of a galley, which was believed to bring prosperity. This was commonly hung in shops and offices. At one time coffeehouses were Istanbul’s art galleries, and naturally the pictures hung on the walls reflected the political and religious inclinations of the time. Favourite subjects included a scene from the Sahmeran myth about Zaloglu Rüstem’s defeat of Sefik the giant, Sührab’s battle with the seven-headed dragon, and the Iron Wrestler fighting the lion. Early sous-verre paintings were done singly by hand, but as their popularity rose, they began to be mass produced, so that many identical copies of the same painting were to be seen. As well as people who were artists by trade, glaziers also turned their hand to painting under glass. The majority of these paintings originate in Istanbul, because this was where Turkey’s glass producers were situated. However, a second centre of production was the city of Konya, where there was also a tradition of calligraphy and painting, encouraged by the teaching of the Mevlevi dervish order, whose founder Mevlânâ Celaleddin Rumi lived here in the 14th century. The sous-verre paintings of Konya were for the most part in the form of calligraphic compositions incorporating the name of Mevlânâ. In eastern and southeastern Turkey, meanwhile, pictures were inspired by Shiite symbolism. Paintings with religious subjects included calligraphic inscriptions, calligraphic compositions (in the form of mosques, ewers, jugs, fruit, birds and medallions), and views of Mecca, Medina, mosques and the Hejaz railway. Another genre was based on folk tales and myths, and finally there were imperial armorial devices.

The fragility of glass is one of the main reasons for the rarity of these delightful pictures, about whose anonymous artists very little is known. Some interesting examples can be seen at Topkapi Palace, and in the Museum of Divan Literature in Istanbul. There are also some of these pictures in private collections, such as those of Balkan Naci Islimyeli, Neveser Aksoy, Ömer Bortaçina, Sahin Paksoy and Hifzi Topuz. A handful of leading Turkish artists are now using the technique, including Mustafa Plevneli, Neveser Aksoy and Mevlut Akyildiz, so that it may be sous-verre is in for a revival.