Many photographs published after official meetings of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan clearly show that the walls of the rooms at the presidential residence are decorated with artwork depicting landscapes of Istanbul, painted by prominent Russian marine artist Ivan Aivazovsky.
Many experts say that the Turkish president surrounds himself with paintings by Aivazovsky not by accident. The CEO of the “Aivazovsky’s Istanbul” exhibition, Bülent Özükan, told Sputnik about the reasons for the popularity of the works by the famous artist in Turkey. A permanent multimedia exhibition presenting 400 paintings of the marine artist opened in Istanbul in 2015. The year 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the artist’s birth.
“It is well known that Aivazovsky had a very close connection to Turkey; a few Russian researchers of the artist’s biography even claim that Aivazovsky had Turkic roots,” said Bülent Özükan, the chairman of the board of directors of the publishing house Boyut Yayıncılık.
Aivazovsky, whose work is very much loved and appreciated in Turkey, had painted more than 200 canvases depicting Istanbul. “It is worth noting that even among Turkish artists there is no one who would have created so many works devoted to this Turkish city. This fact explains why Aivazovsky and his paintings occupy such an important place in the visual arts of Turkey,” the director general of the “Aivazovsky’s Istanbul” exhibition noted.
The first time Aivazovsky visited Istanbul was in 1845, during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecit. Then he came to the capital of the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Abdülaziz and his successor, Abdülhamit. The Russian artist met with all these rulers in person.
“The artist’s first arrival in Istanbul took place as part of a research expedition of the Russian Imperial fleet, which included visits to the straits and waters of the Aegean Sea. Aivazovsky took part in this expedition as the official artist of the Russian flotilla,” Özükan explained.
The reception of the crew took place in the sultan’s palace. Aivazovsky presented his canvases to Abdülmecit and was awarded an order.
“In his follow-up visits to Istanbul, Aivazovsky continued to build diplomatic ties and to meet with the Ottoman rulers as a representative of Imperial Russia. Thus, the artist formed close and friendly relations with the Turkish state,” Özükan said.
The CEO of the “Aivazovsky’s Istanbul” exhibition also noted that the closest contacts were observed during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz. “In this period, the artist is often invited to the reception at the sultan’s palace and receives various awards and honors. Aivazovsky was inspired by panoramas of Istanbul and interacting with Abdülaziz; he even painted the sultan’s portrait.”
After the death of Abdülaziz, Aivazovsky makes a portrait of the next Ottoman ruler, Murad V. According to the expert, this is the only Aivazovsky’s painting created in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace. In addition, two exhibitions of his artwork were held in Istanbul in those times.
Speaking about the popularity of Aivazovsky’s paintings in Turkey, Özükan revealed that they have traced the provenance of 60 original paintings by Aivazovsky in Turkey.
“We found that Turkish public institutions own about 41 canvas of the painter. 10 of them are in the presidential residence, about 21 paintings grace the walls in the palaces of Ottoman sultans and 10 more are exhibited in the various marine and military museums of the country.” In addition, more than 10 paintings by the artist are held in private collections in Istanbul.
After Topkapi Palace was turned into a museum, much of the palace’s property was transferred to the Turkish Parliament’s storage facility. Aivazovsky’s paintings became an important part of the collection at the disposal of the parliament.
“My attention was also drawn to the fact that the photographs taken in the residence during official meetings and speeches of President Erdogan, constantly capture several paintings by Aivazovsky in the frame,” Özükan said.
“With this in mind, we can say that even nowadays the Turkish leader appreciates the work of the great marine artist Ivan Aivazovsky and sees his work as an element of prestige of the state,” he stressed.