The museum, formerly a residence, is in a gorgeous location, a bit up on a hill and overlooking the water. The view actually reminds me of Lake Como, which is a place I have never associated with Istanbul, though it's perhaps because the house was designed by an Italian architect, in 1925. It was built for an Egyptian family but acquired in 1951 by Turkish businessman Haci Omer Sabanci, and it eventually passed to his son, Sakip. (The family-owned Sabanci Holding is one of the largest companies in Turkey.)
Dreams of Nature: Symbolism from Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibit we saw at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Before the Arts of the Book and Calligraphy Collection, we'd gone through the museum's exhibition/collection on Turkish painting, While a Country is Changing: Turkish Painting from the Ottoman Reformation to the Republic. I don't think of Turkey as being particular Western -- it's really it's own unique place, a mash-up of East and West, with (currently) strong religious tendencies -- and I was so surprised to see of a history such obviously Western paintings from Turkish artists. Even more interesting, according to one of the information panels, the museum sees it as a continuation of the calligraphy collection, "reflecting the transformation of visual representation in Turkish art, changing concepts of art and the artist, and the process of modernization between the late Ottoman and early Turkish Republic periods."
|From left to right: Hikmet Onat's Landscape with Bridge (1922) and Osman Hamdi Bey's Kokona Despina (1906)|
The collection starts with works from the mid-1800s, which was when Western literary forms were introduced to Turkey and Turkish painting started to reflect Western styles. According to the panels, artists gave up Ottoman miniature painting and started working on canvas, painting landscapes and still lifes. They also began to paint portraits of real people, whereas before, they could only paint the sultans. When Turkish artists went abroad, they -- gasp! -- also learned about painting nudes, which was forbidden in Turkey. (The exhibit has a whole wall devoted to this genre.) Many of the paintings were undated, but I'd say the exhibit ran through about the 1930s (though one of Fikret Mualla's paintings was from 1957).
|From left to right: Nazmi Ziya Guran's Taksim Square (1935), close-up from Guran's Backgammon Players, and Cevat Dereli's Mevlevi Dervishes|
|Two paintings from Fikret Mualla: Moda and Street -- Blue|
I didn't realize it at the time but I'd apparently managed to soak in a lot of this information; we went to Istanbul Modern yesterday and saw their (much larger) exhibit New Works, New Horizons, presenting "the evolution of modern and contemporary Turkish art from its earliest stage to the present day." It all looked pretty familiar, and I even managed to recognize some of the artists by their style.