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Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu

Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu (1913-1975)

The Turkish painter and poet Mr Eyuboglu, successfully combined traditional decoration and folk handcraft patterns in his works.

Born in Görele, he died in Istanbul in 1975. He was the second of five children in his family. A student at Trabzon High School, in 1927 he began studying under Zeki Kocamemi who had been appointed to the school. Under the influence of those lessons and motivated by the school director, he entered the Istanbul Fine Arts Academy (now Mimar Sinan University) where he became a student of Nazmi Ziya and İbrahim Çallı. In 1930, before completing his education, he went to Paris to stay with Sabahattin Eyüboğlu. There, he studied painting alonside Andre Lhote and met his wife, Eren.

After returning to Turkey, he participated in the D Group’s 40 exhibitions with 30 paintings in 1934. He held his first personal exhibition in Bucharest that same year. He came third in the academy’s diploma competition in 1934. As he was unwilling to graduate in third place, he prepared to enter the competition again, during which time he worked as an interpreter at the Circassian Railways and also at the Monopolies General Directorate. Eventually he won the diploma competition with his composition “Hamam” in 1936. That same year, he participated in the Contemporary Turkish Art Exhibition in Moscow. In 1937, together with Cemal Tollu, he became assistant to the head of the painting Department. Bedri Rahmi went to Edirne in 1938 and to Çorum in 1941 in order to do some paintings linked to the culture programme of the People’s Republican party (CHP), a programme to which many other painters also contributed. During this period he used Anatolian scenes such as villages, village coffee houses, roads with carriages and brides in his paintings.
After the 1940’s, he turned in the direction of murals. His first was in 1943 in Istanbul for the Lido swimming pool in Ortaköy. He opened a private studio and gallery in 1947, again in Istanbul. He then held an exhibition in Ankara, including works from all his periods, in 1950. Bedri Rahmi went to Paris once more during the same year and studied the art of primitive tribes at the Museum of Mankind (Musee de l’homme). Those studies led him to form the view that the “beautiful” could be “useful” at the same time, and that being “useful” would not diminish the power of “beauty.” This way of thinking came to totally dominate his artistic thinking.

He started to study mosaics in 1950, and made a 272 m2 wall panel for the international Brussels Exhibitions in 1958, with which he won the gold medal, the premier award at the exhibition.

One year later, he prepared a 50 m2 mosaic wall panel for the NATO building in Paris. He went to the USA twice, in 1960 and 1961. He took part in many excursions, gave speeches and studied painting there. In 1969 at the San Paulo Biennial he won the honour medal. Furthermore, in 1940 he came third in the painting category at the State Painting and Sculpture Exhibition. In 1943 he came second at the same exhibition, and in 1972, he won it in its 33rd year. After his death in 1976, an exhibition named “The living Bedri” was held at Ankara. That same year he was commemorated in Istanbul with an exhibition held by the State Fine Arts Academy. In 1984, a group exhibition was held in İstanbul called “Bedri Rahmi from all periods.”

Although Bedri Rahmi taught himself at Andre Lhote’s studio in Paris after his first years at the academy, he did not adopt his cubist and constructive approach, and found Dufy and Matisse more sympathetic. In his paintings of Istanbul scenes made on trips to Anatolia and Thrace after he returned to Turkey, one can discern the influence of Dufy’s approaches to colour and drawing. Bedri Rahmi eventually moved away from that influence too, has started to see folk art as a reliable source of inspiration. Using folk art as a starting point, he searched for a new means of expression. He was also inspired by miniatures. He used the geometric abstract shapes of Anatolian kilims, china, the decorative styles of the cicim, saddlebags, hand-painted clothes and socks and their colour harmonies as a vehicle. He made drawings in which motifs had particular emphasis. He not only applied these to his paintings, but also made research into colour and materials. He experimented in technique in his many works of gravure, mosaic, sculpture and ceramics. He also turned to calligraphy, which also is a folk art, printed designs on clothes and continued that work with his students.

After his two-year trip to the USA, he returned to his former subject matter in his later years, although he still inclined to abstract paintings and colour arrangements using various different materials.

With representations of kemancha players, squatters’ houses, inns, self portraits, and pictures of fish and cafes, he made perfect depictions of nature by using new colours and materials. In those works, which largely consist of contemporary painting elements, it appears that closer to the abstract the subject gets, the more embellished it becomes.

Bedri Rahmi continued working as a painting teacher until his death, and trained many artists at the academy studio.
Bedri Rahmi started to write poetry in 1928 when he was a high school student. His poems were published in Yeditepe, Ses, Güney, İnsan, İnkılapçı, Gençlik and Varlık magazines. After 1941, he published a number of collections of his poetry. His admiration for all types of folk literature was also reflected in his poems. In that context, his peoms bear a close resemblance to his paintings. He revealed his thoughts about folk art and literature in his writings and essays, written in a fluent and easy language.

His works of art (main) : Paintings; Paris 1930, Mustafa Eyüboğlu 1933, Written Still life 1936, Salı Bazaar 1938, Eren 1940, The Shod Ox, Thinking Man 1953, Village Woman (Train- sleeping car) Istanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum, Blackberry Seller 1954, Squatting Villager 1972, Poplars of Ankara 1973, The Pilgrim with the Purple Skullcap 1974, Last Coffee 1975, Anatolia Fort Ankara Painting and Sculpture Museum, Naked, In the house Istanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum, Inn 1975, his last painting. Murals: Murals at the Lido swimming pool, 1943 Ortaköy İstanbul; Murals at the Hotel Hilton and Hotel Divan. Mosaic panels; Mosaic panel for International Brussels Exhibition, 1958; Mosaic panel at the NATO Building, 1959 Brussels; Ceramic panel at the security workers hospital, 1959 Samatya Istanbul; Ceramics panel at the Etibank building, Mosaic panel at the Hotel Marmara, Ankara; Mosaic panel at Vakko factory, Topkapı, Istanbul. Embossed Walls; Wall emboss at Manifaturacılar Çarşısı, Unkapanı İstanbul; wall emboss at Aksu İşhanı, Karaköy, İstanbul. Poems; Letters to the Creator 1941,Blacberry 1948,Salt 1952, Three at a Time 1953, Four at a Time 1956, Blackberry 69 1969, Dol Karabakır Dol 1974, Collected Poems; I Lived (after his death) 1977. Writings and Essays; My Dear Anatolia 1953, Dried Dung 1975, Frivolous 1975, Starting to Paint (posthumously) 1977. Monography; Nazmi Ziya 1937 Painting Album; 1001 Berdros (posthumous) 1977,Blackberry (posthumous) 1979, Babatomiler (posthumous) 1979.