Osman Hamdi Bey

November 27, 2007
by findingDulcinea Staff
At the end of the 19th century a Turkish-born, French-educated lawyer turned painter revitalized Turkish fine art through publications and paintings, and established a museum honoring both the past and the future of the Ottoman traditions and its connections to its eastern and western neighbors.

A New Beginning

Osman Hamdi Bey (“bey” is a title of respect, similar to “esquire” in English) lived at the nexus of transformation in Turkey. Active from the 1860s, he was educated and influenced by European artists, but maintained an allegiance to the culture of his birthplace. He used this worldly intellect to become a talented painter whose work has fetched over $3 million at auction. Leaning on the styles of his European teachers (chiefly Jean Léon Gérôme, with whom he studied in Paris from 1860-69), Hamdi Bey returned to Istanbul to use the realist techniques of the Orientalists to render his own culture and traditions on canvas. 

But this Ottoman renaissance didn’t end with his own art: Hamdi Bey went on to build the Archaeology Museum of Istanbul. He also used the relatively new medium of photography to create albums of himself and other subjects in traditional Turkish costume—another way of preserving quintessential Ottoman culture.

Background & Context

For a better understanding of Ottoman art and other aspects of culture, explore this section.

As explains, Turkish art involved many media: rugs, tapestries, architecture, embroidery, mosaics, ceramics, as well as painting and sculpture. Hamdi Bey’s paintings reflected this variety; they were always set in lavishly decorated environments adorned with colorful mosaics, floor tiles, rugs, costumes, and calligraphy.

All About Turkey

For a better understanding of Turkish art before and after Hamdi Bey, visit the “Turkish arts” page of All About Turkey. 

The Houses of Art

The House of Archaeology


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