As traveling was arduous and expensive in the 17th and the 18th centuries, very few artists were able to go to the East, and the ones who succeeded in going there were satisfied with what was told to them and created imaginary “Eastern compositions” without really learning about the East in depth.
Until the end of the 17th century, the relationship of the East and the West was limited to trade. The Venetian merchants had monopolized this area as a result of their exclusive agreements with the Ottoman Empire. When we reconsider the past, we can see that the difference in the culture and beliefs of these two geographical regions had caused numerous disagreements and conflicts.
Starting from the 18th century, the West began to take a greater interest in the East. In 1704, the French publisher Antoine Galland translated the “Tales of 1001 Nights” into French. After that, in 1721, the publication of Montesquieu’s “Persian Letters” (Lettres Persanes) was also met with great interest. Spontaneously, the “Turquerie” fashion in clothing, literature, music, and decorating began in this period.
While the word “Turquerie” was defined as “the addition of Eastern décor to Western décor or an İstanbul-style or palace-rooted fashion that originated in Europe as a result of the wish to imitate the Turkish style”, it is believed that it was Müteferrika Süleyman Ağa, who was sent to France as an ambassador in response to the envoy Louis XIV sent to the Ottoman palace in 1669, was the person who initiated this trend. For quite a long time, Western artists portrayed the Ottomans as a closed world full of elaborate “oriental décors” much different than theirs and reflected their own fantasies on their canvases.
In the middle of the 19th century, “Orientalism” enabled the onset of a new period in European painting. For the first time in 1854, the orientalist works of the nominees for Grand Prix de Rome were included in the competition. The winner of the grand prize would receive a five-year scholarship to study at the Villa Medicis by “the French Academy” in Rome, which was in operation since 1816. Paintings with oriental themes participated in the exhibition side by side with works depicting mythological and religous subjects as well as Greek history.
With the gradual development of transport vehicles after 1840, European artists who were not able to travel farther than Italy or Greece before, were able to go to İstanbul –the gate of the East– by the sea or the overland route and later by train in order to portray the East; and while some headed from İstanbul to Anatolia, Syria, and Egypt, others chose to go to Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia via France or Spain.
As the years rolled by in the 19th century, the means of access to the East became easier, and maritime transport companies such as “P&O” in Britain, “Messagerie Maritime” in France and “Società Navigazione Generale” in Italy established regular lines to North African and East Mediterranean harbors. In this way, continuous cruises took place to big cities such as İstanbul and İzmir, while the less frequently visited smaller harbors such as Antalya, Mersin, and İskenderun and regions such as the Black Sea were deemed as less untouched and undiscovered places by artists when compared to İstanbul or İzmir.
According to Thornton, “Orientalism” in painting was neither a movement nor a genre or style. İnankur also supports this view, stating that “orientalist” paintings are similar to each other not with regard to their style but their subjects, and that many artists who have produced works reflecting different styles treated similar subjects such as the Turkish bath and city scenes, mostly depicting daily life and architecture. Although the “Odalisque” paintings of Ingres, Delacroix and Renoir are orientalist works, these painters neither adopted the same approach to painting nor belonged to the same artistic movement. In the same way, Ingres and Delacroix are the foremost painters of romanticism, whereas Renoir is a renowned impressionist. When we study the second half of the 19th century, we see that painters who adopted the Eastern world as their main subject and used “oriental” (eastern) themes in their paintings were aged artists, whose careers reblossomed after they created paintings with eastern themes by utilizing the techniques of the “schools” they belonged to before coming to the East. During this period, Victor Hugo emphasized that İstanbul was the symbol of the Eastern world, saying, “The world of Islam has always been the source of knowledge and fantasy for western people. We were bizantians in the era of Louis XIV; now, we are orientalists.”
There were even “studio painters” such as Jean Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) who made paintings with eastern themes without even getting to know the East. Ingres who was famous for his painting called the “The Turkish Bath”, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (1793-1865), Giulio Rosati (1853-1917), Giuseppe Signorini (1857-1932), and many other painters who did not know about the East worked in their studios. According to Martin Haja, these painters faced the dilemma of putting together fantasy and realism in order to achieve the Realistic Reality, which was their ultimate goal.
The main causes that accelerated the rush of various artists to Eastern countries were the Egypt Campaign between 1798-1799, the interest in the research of Egyptology at the end of the 18th century, the Greek Independence War from 1821 to 1829, the French entry into Algeria in 1830, the Crimean War between 1854-1855, and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The French and British colonialist politics in the 19th century as well as their attempts to debilitate the Ottoman Empire should be added to the above stated reasons. On October 16, 1869, famous orientalist painters such as Charles Vacher de Tournemine (1812-1872), Ivan Constantinovich Aïvazowski (1817-1900), Eugène Fromentin (1820-1876), Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), Narcisse Bérchere (1819-1891), and Stefano Ussi (1832-1901), who were in the group of painters invited by Khediv İsmail Pasha, attended the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal, documented it through their paintings, and also made paintings of the Nile.
In this period, while artists who were also travelers and explorers got engaged with research on Eastern culture and the Eastern concept of family with the support of their embassies in other countries, other artists, who were academicians, participated in scientific studies. Painters who worked as war correspondents portrayed real war scenes. Setting off from İstanbul, they went all the way to Syria, Egypt, North Africa, India, and even to the Far East. When orientalist works of art took place in the Exposition Universelle exhibition in Paris in 1855 and 1867, German, Italian, Austrian, Spanish, and American artists also began to be fascinated by orientalist themes just as their French and British colleagues did. While the French author Théophile Gautier defined this trend as the “blue disease” and the “azure nostalgia”, the Austrian critic Martina Haja describes it saying, “Paintings with oriental themes oscillate between the visionary East kept alive in fantasies, and rational realism similar to a clock’s pendulum; and the ones that stop at the point of oscillation do not only render orientalist works attractive but also open a wide field for debate.”
During “Tanzimat” (Reform Era), Ottoman statesmen and the Ottoman diplomats abroad began to take an interest in the art of painting. Halil Şerif Pasha, who lived in Paris from 1850 to 1860, was the most renowned among them, and as an art lover and an intellectual, he had a rich collection consisting of valuable 19th century works. This collection comprised of a total of 109 pieces including paintings by famous artists such as Jean-Baptiste Corot (1796-1875), Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), Eugène Fromentin (1820-1876, Jean-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), Claude Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867), François Boucher (1703-1770), Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), and Alexandre Gabriel Decamps (1803-1860); and, none of the paintings reflected oriental themes. Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha, Avlonyalı Ferid Pasha, Şehzade Abdülmecid Efendi and Şehzade Burhaneddin Efendi can be named as other collectioners in the following years.
Alexandre Gabriel Decamps who stayed in our country for almost one and a half year after he left Greece, where he was appointed in 1828 to portray the Navarin Battle, and who then moved to İzmir, Manisa, Aydın, Balıkesir, and finally to İstanbul, was a great master who actually lived in the same period with the renowned artist Eugène Delacroix and showed interest in oriental subjects during his visit to the Ottoman land. The artist who was deeply affected by the vivid nature and the people he came across in Turkey continued to bring this magical land into life on his canvas after he returned to France. He participated in the Paris Hall in 1831 side by side with Delacroix, another great orientalist painter, and attracted a lot of attention with his painting titled “Ronde du Cadji-bey Smyrne” (Night Patrol in İzmir). The renowned critic Gautier who was also the author of “Constantinople”, commented about Decamps in the Paris Hall in 1833 saying, “Ingres’s superiority in drawing is transformed into the mastery of using colors in Decamps.” The secret of Decamps’s mastery in depicting the Turkish landscape, animals and hunting themes as well as historical and religious themes must perhaps be sought in the combination of his impressions of the East as well as the way he was influenced by Rembrandt’s (1606-1669) style.
During the period in Europe when paintings with Oriental themes were widely produced, Şeker Ahmet Pasha purchased many paintings for the Dolmabahçe Palace from Adolphe Goupil, who was Gérôme’s father-in-law, as well as from other vendors upon Sultan Abdülaziz’s orders and his teacher Gérôme’s suggestions. While some of these pieces consisted of European landscapes and figures, most of them were paintings by famous painters such as Victor Pierre Huguet (1835-1902), George Washington (1827-1910), Eugène Fromentin (1820-1876), Jean-Léon Gérome (1824-1904), Gustave Boulanger (1824-1888), Alfred de Dreux (1810-1860), Narcisse Berchere (1819-1891), and Adolf Schreyer (1828-1899), whose works were exhibited mainly in the “Salons” in France, and nearly all of these paintings depicted not İstanbul or Bosphorus landscapes but sceneries from Egypt or North African countries. Although Huguet, Washington and Gérôme had also worked in İstanbul, their paintings that were purchased for the Palace did not portray İstanbul. Fromentin, Boulanger and De Dreux had either never been to İstanbul or, at least, did not belong to the group of artists who actually worked in İstanbul, and all three of them were skilled in compositions of “horses”. The selection of these paintings can be considered as the result of Sultan Abdülaziz’s art and painting knowledge, his interest in horses as well as the sign of the privilege he conceded to the lands under his rule as a sultan who also drew horses himself and who twice had his statue made displaying him mounted on a horse.
During the period he taught at “École des Beaux-Arts” in Paris, like Boulanger, another painter of the time, the renowned orientalist painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), whose works still remain in the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Presidential Palace, gave painting lessons to Şeker Ahmet Pasha (1841-1907), Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910), and Halil Paşa (1857-1939) who later became the masters of Turkish painting, in addition to teaching to the orientalist Greek painter Theodoros Rallis (1852-1909). Gérôme visited Turkey four times in 1854, 1871, 1875, and in 1879, and painted “The Slave Market”, “The Dervishes” and “The Zeybeks” groups that depicted erotic baths, rich accessories, and harems decorated with half-naked women as well as reflecting the vigor of everyday life. In his studio in Paris, he used various “objects” he brought along from İstanbul and the photographs he obtained from the court photographers Abdullah Freres (Abdullah Brothers), whom he met in 1875, to create his masterpieces, which break sales records in auctions today. According to Ackermann, “Although Gérôme became famous as a neo-greek painter in the first place, he concentrated on “realism” in his later works. He preferred objectivity to romanticism in his paintings that represented oriental themes. And with his works that were based on history, he attracted attention with the way his archaelogical sensitivity exceeded his romantic vision.” The documents include the information that in 1875, Sultan Abdülaziz purchased the painting titled “Lion in His Cave”, which has been in the Presidential Palace since 1932, from the art merchant Adolphe Goupil for 15.000 francs. “The Dancing Zeybeks”, which is also in the Presidential Palace today, as well as the painting titled Coffeehouse in Egypt”, which is now in the Dolmabahçe Palace Abdülmecid Efendi Library, were also purchased from Goupil.
Among all Middle Eastern countries, the Painting Collection of the Directorate of National Palaces in Turkey is perhaps the institution that has the most valuable “orientalist” works of art that depict the “19th century”, and its foundations had been laid by Sultan Abdülaziz. Sultan Abdülaziz also enabled the palace to obtain many landscape paintings by European artists with non-orientalist themes. After Sultan Abdülaziz, Sultan Abdülhamid II also ordered paintings from orientalist painters who traveled to or lived in İstanbul as well as appointing them to work and paint in the Palace; thus, he succeeded in adding many works of art depicting İstanbul to the palace collection. Among these artists are Stanislas von Chlebowski (1835-1884), Ivan Constantinovich Aïvazowski (1817-1900), Pierre Désirée Guillemet (1827-1878), Alberto Pasini (1826-1899), Luigi Acquarone (1800-1896), and the Ottoman Court Painter Fausto Zonaro (1854-1929) , who was awarded three medals of honor by Sultan Abdülhamid II and whose paintings have recently been exhibited and printed as albums, can be named as the foremost in this group. The İstanbul paintings of François Dubois (1790-1871), Tristam James Ellis (1844-1922), Salvatore Valeri (1856-1946), Adolf Kaufmann (1848-1916), Etienne de Forcade (?-?), Max Rabes (1868-1944), and Theodore van Ryselberge (1862-1926) can be added to this list.
Of these artists, the Italian painter Alberto Pasini (1826-1899) came to İstanbul three times starting from the 1860s and completed four paintings with war themes in 1868 upon the personal request of Sultan Abdülaziz. These paintings are still in the Dolmabahçe Palace. During these journeys, the painter usually made his “preliminary sketches” on the coasts of Beykoz, Büyükdere and Tarabya. When he set off for Turkey in 1876 for the fourth time by taking the overland route, he was informed about Sultan Abdülaziz’s tragic death and the following political turmoil as soon as he arrived in Vienna, and consequently, returned to his country. After 1873, Pasini was not able to see again the vivacious markets reflecting the daily life in İstanbul, the city he admired and carried to his canvas, the smoky and perfume-smelling streets of Galata, cruises on the Göksu stream on a rowboat, Turkish women, whom he defined as “talking flowers”, dressed in colorful clothes reflecting the colors of life.
During his journey to İstanbul in 1858, Aivazowski presented one of his paintings to Sultan Abdülmecid, and the sultan who admired the painter’s work awarded him a medal of honor of fourth degree. The artist, who stayed in İstanbul for two months after he came to the city again in 1874, was introduced to Sultan Abdülaziz through the agency of Sarkis Balyan, the architect who designed the Dolmabahçe Palace and who was the artist’s host. In İstanbul, he was able to complete only six of more than thirty paintings ordered from him, including the portrait of the sultan, who was an adept painter himself and a supporter of the Westernization movement and who believed that paintings reflecting the European style had to decorate the walls of the palace. Awarded with an “Ottoman Medal” of honor of second degree by Sultan Abdülaziz, the artist completed the remaining paintings after he returned to Teodosia in 1875. The painting dated 1874 with title “Sarayburnu”, the painting dated 1874 with title “Eyüp in the Moonlight”, and the one dated 1875 with title “Ottoman Navy in front of the Çırağan Palace” that still remain in the Dolmabahçe Palace are some of these works. During his last visit to İstanbul in 1890, the painter was admitted to the presence of Abdülhamid II and was awarded a medal of honor called “Mecidî Nişân” by the sultan who appreciated the two paintings the artist presented to him. In this period, the painter also made a portrait of the sultan, which is in a private collection in Berlin today.
The largest orientalist painting in the Dolmabahçe Palace is “Sürre Cavalcade”, which was made by the renowned Italian painter Stefano Ussi (1832-1901), has dimensions of 300 x 520 cm. İsmail Pasha, the Khediv of Egypt, ordered Ussi, whom he met on account of the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal, to create a painting titled “Sürre Cavalcade” that would depict the dispatch of the special cloth sent annually by the Ottoman sultan to Mecca to cover the Qaaba. The painting was supposed to be a composition showing the pilgrims going to Mecca together with a cavalcade of camels that set off from Cairo to take the present to Qaaba as well as the Turkish horsemen who guarded them. Sultan Abdülaziz who received news about the painting, which would be sent to Egypt after being exhibited in Vienna in 1873, arranged it to be added to the Dolmabahçe Palace collection. In 1874, Ussi made a smaller version of this painting and gave it to His Excellency De Martino, the Italian ambassador to Egypt, as a gift including a brief dedication. This painting is one of the pieces included in this exhibition.
In 1846, the traveling painter Jules Laurens (1825-1901) who was not affiliated with the palace attended the Turkey-Persia trip that lasted four years together with Hommaire de Hell, who was a geographer and a mining engineer working for the French government. He described İstanbul as a “magical city that reminds one of the Tales of Thousand-and-One Nights” and created many drawings and watercolor paintings reflecting the magic he perceived. During this journey that included the entire Anatolia, he described the villages, the historical ruins, and the people that were a part of the conditions in which he created hundreds of watercolor paintings and drawings, saying, “rushing on the streets; on the rocks, in the rain, and under the scorching sun, standing or squatting down; tired, discouraged and in all kinds of unsuitable and adverse conditions.” Contrary to artists such as Charles Vacher de Tournemine who appreciated Anatolia and made friends with the local folk, Laurens never fostered such feelings or made an effort to learn the Turkish language. He used to always think of Chateaubriand and Lamartine whenever he was in İstanbul saying, “before I go to sleep in the evening, I read excerpts from Hugo to purify my soul”, and would always see every landscape or the local folk he came across from the viewpoint of his own culture with an air of being “utterly western in the East”, and he even referred to Racine by describing the dogs in the streets of İstanbul as “İstanbul dogs, covered all over with stinking wounds”.
When the ship he boarded entered İstanbul, Charles Vacher de Tournemine (1812-1872) had said, “The mosques, the palaces and the houses were taking on various shapes and greeting each other with the reflections of thousands, tens of thousands, and maybe numberless bright stones… Nothing in this world can be compared to this dazzling, extraordinary view. After seeing this view, I can try to use the most unusual and the boldest colors, but still, I can never compete with the original.” In the first quarter of the 19th century, Tournemine, who had a romantic approach with a nostalgic point of view, interpreted the East as the “quest for paradise lost”. For this painter who inclined towards romanticism at a very young age, painting was both enjoyable and also took him to a fantasy world. As he painted the Anatolian landscape, he aimed to transfer his excitement to the observers of his paintings. After returning from his journey to Anatolia that brought his career to maturity, he said, “This journey made me happy. In Anatolia, in that fabulous environment God created, I got to know myself better and my entire perspective on life broadened,” defining Anatolia as a geography that guarded him against the materialistic lifestyle of the Western civilization, whose current and historical issues he did not find pleasure in.
Another artist who traveled to Anatolia, Syria and Egypt after İstanbul, just like Laurens and Tournemine did, was Félix Ziem (1821-1911) who said, “In this city, I found the warmth I have been looking for, and I discovered the harmony of various pictoresque and pleasing colors and forms,” shortly after his arrival in İstanbul in 1856. After İstanbul, he took the “Le Danube” boat and proceeded to İzmir, Rhodes, and İskenderun. From there, he moved to Beirut and Damascus, and finally to Egypt. Ziem was more interested in the search of colors and impressions than in depicting the places and people he observed in detail. The human figures in his paintings are devoid of form and motion; however, when he colored these figures, he came up with a different and complementary picture. According to Ziem, the call of a painting to the eye and to the soul originates only from the union of the artist’s idealism with realism. Many of his paintings were bought by the famous art merchants Goupil and Paschal. It is also known that first Goupil and then Sultan Abdülaziz purchased one of his paintings depicting Venice. This painting must be the oil painting titled “Venice” (49×80 cm) that is currently in the Beylerbeyi Palace.
Artists who did not undergo a change with regard to their work or techniques during the time they worked in the East also discovered the effect of light, and consequently, observed that the hues in their pallettes turned to deeper reds and yellows, the light in their paintings became warmer, the contrasts got sharper, and that their colors became more vivid and glaring. Although some artists who travelled to the East usually created paintings with oriental themes, the “genre” painters of the 19th century who were more in number, did not settle for oriental themes, and as students of the “neoclassicism”, “romanticism”, “realism”, or “impressionism” movements, they also depicted landscapes and figures of their own countries. During the short time they spent in the East, each one of these painters created many orientalist paintings ranging from simple drawings to broader compositions that can be distinguished by means of their sensitivity, experience, talent, and position as well as the techniques they applied.
Another orientalist painter was Simeon Sabbides (1859-1927), who was born in Tokat, Anatolia and travelled to Anotolia many times after he was inspired by the two great artists of the Greek “school”, Nikephoras Lytras (1832-1904) and his teacher, the genre painter Nikolaos Gysis’ten (1842-1901), who had dicovered Anatolia before Sabbides; thus, he transposed the landscape and the local folk of Anotolia into his paintings through his impressionist style. Sabbides’s portrait of Şeker Ahmet Pasha with dimensions 26.5x 19.2 cm is thought to be a copy of the self-portrait with dimensions 116×84 cm that is in the İstanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum.
John Frederick Lewis (1805-1876) who is known as the artist who portrayed the Ottoman world in the most excellent way was influenced by the orientalist painter David Wilkie (1785-1841) who had also worked in Turkey in his younger years, as well as by David Roberts (1796-1864), who is considered as one of the masters of orientalism; and Lewis owed the refinement of his drawings to these artists. The painter, who worked in İstanbul for a short period, stayed in the East, and especially in Egypt for a long time. Lewis, who was called the “Lonely Falcon” because of his introvert character, followed the “pré-raphaëlite” approach to reality, which attracted a lot of attention in the Royal Academy in 1849, and added the Eastern egzotism to this movement. In his works reflecting the “Pré-raphaëlite” realist style, especially flowers and detailed eastern décors catch the eye. According to the art critic Ruskin, Lewis had always been a real “pré-raphaëlite” artist. His paintings reflected reality instead of “formalism” or “idealism” and the lifestyle of people instead of their emotions. While Edward Lear (1812-1888) , who was also well-acquainted with the East like Lewis and who stayed in İstanbul for a short while, commented about Lewis saying, “I have never seen such beautiful paintings. They reflect Eastern people and their lifestyle in the most realistic way possible,” the famous French author Gautier described him saying, “He has the patience of a Chinese and the finesse of a Persian.”
Paul Signac (1863-1935) who is undoubtedly one of the pioneers of the pointilliste technique, which requires the paint to be applied in its purest form in small dots using the tip of the brush without previously mixing the colors on the pallette, also came to İstanbul in 1907 with his friend Henri Person (1876-1926) who was also a painter. After returning to France, Signac told a close relation, “The objects and the people I saw there are absolutely different and admirable… It’s almost as if the northern lights are covering the eastern colors in the background,” expressing his passion for İstanbul, and he created glamorous pointilliste paintings in Paris by using the watercolor painting and the drawings he had made in the magical city that left its imprint on him. When Nazmi Ziya, who was a student at “Sanayi-i Nefise” (the Academy of Fine Arts) arrived in Paris, he benefited from Signac’s advice. Although only a few watercolor studies by Signac remain today in a private collection in Turkey, a pointilliste painting titled “Galata Bridge-View of Eminönü from the Direction of Karaköy” by Theodore Van Rysselberghe (1862-1926), whom Signac met in “Salon des XX” in Brussels in 1888 and became close friends with, still remain today in the Dolmabahçe Palace. This painting, which is an absolute masterpiece, is one of the rare “pointilliste” works in Turkey and was presented as a gift to Sultan Abdülhamid II by the Belgian engineer Nacklemecher who worked in the construction of the Baghdad railway.
After many of the painters who traveled to the East in order to depict the landscape, the people and the architecture of the Eastern land returned to their countries together with the paintings they made, they worked in their studios by using the work, the paintings and “sketches” they had completed in the East, as well as the objects, clothing items, and photographs they brought along to create large oil paintings widely appreciated in the European market. Even the artists who lived in places such as İstanbul and Egypt had a hard time selling their orientalist paintings to the people of that country, and were only able to sell some of their work either to foreign diplomats or to the members of the non-Muslim community and sent most of their paintings to the exhibitions in Europe. Ottoman Court Painter Fausto Zonaro’s memoirs titled “Twenty Years During the Reign of Sultan Abdülhamid”, whose Turkish edition we are currently preparing, tell us that the painter sold the paintings he had made in Italy to Ottoman shahzadahs and other Ottoman statesmen, and that he was able to sell his compositions of İstanbul only to foreigners living in İstanbul or to foreign diplomats and businessmen upon returning to his country.
Fausto Zonaro (1854-1929)arrived to Istanbul as a third class passenger on the SS Simeto on November 5th 1891. In his early years in this city, the artist had still difficulty making ends meet and could barely pay the rent of his house. Through the support of his wife Elisa and friends in the diplomatic circle, Zonaro’s financial situation slowly improved and in 1896 Sultan Abdulhamid II who was much was impressed by his painting “The Ertuğrul Cavaly Regiment Crossing the Galata Bridge” appointed him as Ressam-ı Hazret-i Şehriyari (Ottoman Court Painter).
Two years later in 1898 when the Sultan liked his composition of Hücum (The Attack), this time he allocated him a mansion at Beşiktaş, 50 Akaretler . This place which served as a house-studio became the favourite gathering place for Istanbul’s intellectuals and leading figures of society. Nevertheless, Zonaro who for many years had depicted his most beautiful works inspired by his love for life in Istanbul, had to leave this city with his family on the Simplon-Orient Express train on March 20th 1910, after Sultan Abdulhamid II was sent for exile and he was dismissed from his position as court painter.
Until the last twenty-five or thirty years, orientalist paintings were treated rather unfairly in countries such as France and Italy, which are considered as the cradle of painting; and orientalist artists were usually deemed as “Petits Maitres” (Minor Masters) or even lower in rank. When such paintings began to be popular in “auction sales” in Europe since 1980, the works of orientalist artists such as Decamps, Frere, Lewis, Preziosi, Debat-Ponsan, Lecomte du-Nouy, Tournemine, Marilhat , Ziem, Ernst, Laurens, Pasini, Brest, Chlebowski, Prieur-Bardin, Warnia-Zarzecki, Zonaro, and De Mango who were not heard of for a long time but whose paintings were known in the European art markets began to experience their golden age in the international art scene: While art historians in Europe started to study these painters again, museums and art galleries arranged orientalist exhibitions, and by adding new paintings with orientalist themes to their collections and bringing into light the paintings forgotten in warehouses, they tried to have them acquire the position they had long deserved.
In his statistical research about the period from 1809 to 1914 including the study of “288” artists, Professor Ackermann classifies the traveling painters who lived in the East for a long time and created many paintings as “professional orientalists”, and he states that these people were known as orientalist painters, whereas the remaining 49% is excluded from this definition. He adds that, nevertheless, a few highly talented painters such as David Roberts are considered as “professional orientalists” even though they had spent only a short time in the East.
Ackermann lists the result of his research as below:
1. 51%: Professional orientalists,
2. 33%: Painters in search of innovation who desired to make picturesque journeys and
to experience adventures,
3. 20%: Merchants artists: travel book writers, illustrators, and professional tourists,
4. 11%: Artists researching religious history,
5. 10%: Artists in search of healthy weather conditions in the East during winter,
6. 04%: Women painters who came as the wives of foreign diplomats.
Ackermann defines the painters who worked in their own countries using traditional iconography, studio accesories and models without being informed about the East as “pseudo-orientalists”.
In the gradually growing orientalist painting market, the 19th century works of art are seen as an economic value and an investment vehicle in proportion with the artist’s fame, the characteristics and the quality of the marketed painting, and the supply and demand rate in the market. According to a research, the number of western orientalist painters who worked within the boundaries of the National Pact of 1920 in Turkey between the years 1800-1940 is more than 1100. In this essay, we have referred to only the foremost painters of the time. Since most of the above mentioned painters stayed in İstanbul or in Anatolia only for a limited period of time, they were able to create very few paintings, and thus, were forgotten. However, as a result of the growing interest in orientalist painting with every new exhibition, their names have begun to come into light one by one. With the development of the approach to art today in Turkey and in other Eastern countries, museums, art galleries, and private collectors in these countries participate in auctions in Europe and compete in enabling the works of art that are put up for sale to return to their countries. In other words, the Eastern people of the present day are striving to have the works of the 19th century orientalist painters that depict the East to be reclaimed and owned by their original countries.