Avni Lifij's works at Sakıp Sabancı Museum show unexplored aspects
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULOct 24, 2019 - 12:49 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Oct 24, 2019 12:49 am
An exhibition of Avni Lifij's works provides a comprehensive insight into the artist's highly versatile artistic production at Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Avni Lifij (1886-1927) was one of the leading figures of the generation of 1914. Lifij also played a leading role in the spread of Western-style painting in the Ottoman Empire. Born to a poor family of Circassian-Ubykh origin, he studied primary school in the Âşıkpaşa neighborhood in Fatih and high school at Numune-i Terakki Mektebi, which formed the foundations of what is Istanbul High School today. However, he had to quit school because of the onset of tuberculosis. Despite the objections of his father, Abdullah Efendi, who was an illiterate and had a traditional mindset, he tended to learn languages under his own steam. At the recommendation of İskender Ferid Bey, who is of Hungarian origin, from whom he learned French lessons, and Henri Post, a French architect with whom he met while studying at Hagia Sophia, he showed his paintings to Osman Hamdi Bey, the head teacher at Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi. Osman Hamdi Bey was so influenced by his talent that he asked Şehzade Abdülmecid Efendi to send Lifij to Paris. With a scholarship from Abdülmecid Efendi, Lifij went to Paris on Jan. 11, 1909 and studied at the Fernand Cormon workshop under the École Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux-arts. And during his stay in France, Lifij extended his artistic pursuits beyond his academic education. He studied the works of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, one of the most important muralists of the 19th century, continued the workshops of Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ and Octave Dennis Victor Guillonnet, the leading painters at the time, and continued his friendship with Guillonnet after his return to Istanbul in 1911, and corresponded with him for many years. Apart from these artists, he had close relations with both local and international cultural and art figures of the period. He maintained contact with Henri Prost and had the chance to meet with painter Albert Mille, photographer Maurice Meys, writer Baha Said and poet-writer Ahmed Haşim. Avni Lifij’s correspondence with many of these names revealed that he reflected on how art education must be, and he pioneered in this area: He worked for the establishment of decorative arts as a discipline at the Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi and taught in this department for the rest of his life. In addition to his work as an artist and educator, he also contributed to the art of Turkey with his writings on topics such as art criticism, philosophy and art education, which have been brought together for the first time in this exhibition. A show of different genres Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum (SSM) is hosting an exhibition reflecting the versatile production of Hüseyin Avni Lifij, who has a unique place in the history of Turkish painting, with the contributions of Sabancı Holding. The exhibition “Avni Lifij: The Modern of His Time,” which is scheduled for Oct. 15, 2019 to Jan. 12, 2020, carries the products of the artist in a wide range of genres such as self-portraits, pochades, landscapes and figures, as well as his works in fields such as cultural politics, art criticism and photography to the museum environment. The exhibition, which presents Avni Lifij's artist identity in Turkey for the first time with a content that evaluates all aspects in a holistic manner, aims to shed light on the Generation of 1914, which the artist was a member of, and his pioneering role in the history of Turkish art. Focusing on Avni Lifij’s identity as a man of culture, the exhibition “Avni Lifij: The Modern of His Time” offers a comprehensive insight into the artist's life and art with nearly 1,000 oil paintings, studies, designs, sketches, pochades, photographs, archival materials and personal belongings. The concept and management of “Avni Lifij: The Modern of His Time” is undertaken by Sakıp Sabancı Museum Director Dr. Nazan Ölçer. The exhibition aims to evaluate the identity of the artists will all aspects in a holistic manner for the first time in Turkey and shed light on the generation of 1914, which the artist was a member of, and his spearheading role in the history of Turkish art. The unique collection of paintings and drawings and archival materials by Avni Lifij, which have been meticulously preserved and carried to the present time first by his wife Harika Lifij and then by his nephew Şazi Sirel and niece Belkıs Aksoy, are exhibited for the first time together with the masterpieces of the artist. The selection of Avni Lifij's intensive production includes the artist’s works, which are a part of the masterpieces of Turkish painting history, in the collections of Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Painting and Sculpture Museum, Ankara Painting and Sculpture Museum at the helm of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and National Library, as well as in special collections. The show features Avni Lifij’s works which have not been exhibited for a long time, such as “Man with Pipe: Self-Portrait of the Artist,” “The Portrait of Marshal Fevzi Çakmak,” “Allegory” and “Self-Portrait of the artist,” as well as his works in special collections which will be presented for the first time. As an artist who witnessed the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of the Republic of Turkey and was in quest of a unique identity, Avni Lifij’s works to be showcased at the “Avni Lifij: The Modern of His Time” make it possible to see the development of the unique language he captured in his depictions of Istanbul and Ankara. In order to shed light on the artist's hardly known work in the field of photography, all the glass negatives and photographs in the Sirel family's archive are brought together. The exhibition also features Avni Lifij's self-portraits together, which are at a decisive point in his art life and reflect the different periods of his life, including indications of where he positioned himself. While his patterns, which are proof of his mastery, point to the importance he attached to figures, his sketches depicting architectural details reflect his interest in areas such as urbanism and art history which he focused on in his writings. The exhibition brings together all the writings by Avni Lifij included in family collections and special collections, giving the visitors the opportunity to explore the writer Lifij. His writings in Ottoman and French languages on themes consisting of art criticism, urbanism, culture politics and art theory, as well as his translation of philosophical texts were carried to the museum environment. These writings are brought together for the first time in a book to be published regarding the exhibition with the meticulous work by art historian Ömer Faruk Şerifoğlu. As part of this exhibition, which thoroughly explores the life and art of Hüseyin Avni Lifij through documentary screenings, conferences, exhibition tours and workshops for children, an exhibition catalog, which will serve as a source book on the artist, is being prepared thaty features his life story, articles about his versatile production and a broad selection of his works.