feyhaman duran and turkish impressionism.

Yesterday, I attended an  Art History lecture given by Maryse Posenaer in the Sakıp Sabancı Museum. The first session was about Ottoman art in the 19th and 20th centuries. I was very satisfied with the lesson and would like to share what I learned with you guys.

In the Ottoman Empire of the 19th century, art was solely taught in military, medical and engineering schools. These schools did not serve the purpose of teaching fine arts but rather taught technical skills. Thus, people who wanted to become artists needed to study abroad.

In European art the “human figure” was very important and most paintings had detailed depictions of the human body. On the other hand, in the Ottoman Empire, these types of paintings were not common, if not, forbidden. Even poeple who modeled to be painted were dressed. So, Turkish painters couldn’t get the chance to study the human anatomy.

In the early 20th century, a group of Turkish artists -later on called the 1914 Generation– started to move to Europe to get high-quality fine arts education. One of these artists was Feyhaman Durhan, who plays a major role in the creation of Turkish Impressionism.

Feyhaman Duran was born in Istanbul in 1886 and studied in the notorious Lycée du Galatasaray. In 1911, he moved to Paris and continued his education in Academie Julian. There, he made several paintings of the nude human body.

When he returned to Turkey in 1914, he first painted portraits of his friends, well-known artists, and doctors. People were very interested in getting their own portraits drawn. This was mainly because until then, only portraits of Sultans were made by palace artists.


Later on, he painted scenes from daily life, which were greatly influenced by the impressionist art he explored in Paris.

-For those of you who don’t have much of an idea about impressionism, it is an idea of art based on observation. Lighting effects, small brush strokes, strong emotion and dark colors are its main components. By the 1910’s Parisien impressionism could be seen in the works of many Turkish artists.-


Duran generally made paintings of Istanbul.


In the work above, we can observe the westernization of the Ottoman Empire from his depictions of a modern house which contains newly introduced furniture such as an armchair, and wallpaper.

An interesting fact about Duran is that before painting on a large canvas he made the same painting on a smaller one. These small paintings were in a way his “sketches”. They are exhibited next to the final painting in some museums.


Duran also painted “still lives”, which were influenced by the work of Cézanne.

Later in the 19th century, there was an immense improvement in art in Istanbul. More art schools, more artists, more paintings- Istanbul was the capital of cultural enhancement. We can see the effect of this improvement in the work that Feyhaman Duran produced in the 1960’s.


This painting reflects a stronger sense of texture, a better composition, and a larger variety brush strokes than the previous one doesn’t it?

All in all, I can say that impressionism was a leading movement in Turkish, or rather Ottoman, art. I feel very fortunate because the artists of the Generation 1914 were very eager to learn and promote art. We owe a major part of the creation and preservation of Turkish art to their passion. Thanks to yesterday’s lecture I can sincerely say that I am looking forward to discovering other famous artists and artworks of my country

I hope you are too!





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