Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu headed for US at centennial

It probably wouldn’t be wrong to argue that those who best pay attention to what is going on in the world are poets and painters. They reveal whatever they have collected in their sacks when the time is right. What we have to do then is to take a walk before their benches to look in great awe at what they have spread there. There, ordinary things that we ordinary people take for granted are transformed into “objets d’art,” pulling onlookers towards them in a way that is hard to explain. We then fall silent.

One of the heroes of this magical sphere we call art was, needless to say, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu. This man who “makes up fairytales,” said author Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, “used to not see everyday objects as merely forms, but he saw a certain harmony, a lot of chirp and an eternal dance of tiny particles in objects we all see from the exterior, such as trees, water, fruits, pebbles, domes…”

Painter and poet Eyüboğlu, some 36 years after his death, continues to mesmerize art lovers with the unequaled works he left behind. And as 2011 is Eyüboğlu’s centennial, the first in a line of events marking his birthday will be held in the United States, where he happened to visit many years ago during the 1960s.

The first event in the series is a selection of Eyüboğlu’s paintings from his family’s estate, which is going on public display early next week in New York City. The exhibition that will open on Tuesday at the art gallery of the New York Turkish House will feature both figurative and abstract paintings and sketches by Eyüboğlu. Curated by Attila Güllü, the director of Bilkent University’s art gallery in Ankara, the show will remain on display in New York until Jan. 27.


The exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of Eyüboğlu’s first travel to the US, where he lived for two years, starting in 1961. The two years Eyüboğlu spent in the US served as an important milestone in the artist’s career. It was during that period when he turned to vivid colors and abstract forms in his paintings -- so much so that he embarked on a painstaking endeavor to come up with colors that have never been seen before. It was also then that he introduced various types of paints, sand, sawdust, sheets of washi (a certain type of paper made in Japan) and countless other materials into his paintings.

Eyüboğlu’s stay in the US proved fruitful for his international recognition as well; it was during this period that his painting “Eşeğin Üzerinde Çocuklarını Taşıyan Anadolu Köylü Kadın” (Anatolian village woman carrying her children on a donkey) was selected to be printed as a postcard by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Later, in December 1962, the New York Museum of Modern Art acquired Eyüboğlu’s painting “Zincir” (Chain).

Next week’s New York exhibition is just the beginning of a series of events marking Eyüboğlu’s centennial. However, art lovers in Turkey will have to wait a little longer to see what surprises Eyüboğlu has in store for them.


Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu was born in 1911 in the Black Sea city of Giresun. His father being a civil servant, Eyüboğlu lived in various parts of Turkey before attending high school in Trabzon, a city he left in 1929 to enter the State Academy of Fine Arts, which was later renamed Mimar Sinan University, in İstanbul. He left the school temporarily in 1931 to study in France with his elder brother, Sabahattin Eyüboğlu, a well-known writer. After returning to Turkey in the late 1930s, Eyüboğlu started teaching at the academy, where he remained until his death in 1975. As a painter, poet and author, Eyüboğlu drew inspiration from Anatolian folk culture and nature. A versatile artist, Eyüboğlu not only produced paintings but also worked on gravures, ceramics, sculpture, stained glass, mosaics, calligraphy, silkscreen prints and lithography. Eyüboğlu died in İstanbul in 1975.

Musa İğrek, İstanbul
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