Pehlivanli lives through his work
Ankara - Turkish Daily News
It was six years ago when world-famous Turkish painter Rahmi
Pehlivanli died from a sudden illness. He was buried in his native
Kirikkale's Keskin district. Every year on August 23, he is
commemorated by his family, members of the Rahmi Pehlivanli Culture
and Arts Foundation (PEKSAV) and other admirers.
PEKSAV was founded by Pehlivanli and his wife Nurhan in 1992 when the
painter began work on his project "Turkey: Color by Color" as part of
Pehlivanli's wish to pass something on to the Turkish people.
"Rahmi always said that he wanted to give a present to the Turkish
people, that he wanted to bequeath something. From this point of view,
his "Turkey: Color by Color" collection is a gift to the Turkish
people, says Nurhan Pehlivanli. "The idea of establishing a foundation
was based on this wish. We started to think of a way to do something.
If we were to give the collection to a ???constitution or
establishment, it would have been left aside. We wanted the collection
to be alive and to be viewed by the Turkish people. We thought we
could realize our goal with the help of the foundation."
Although PEKSAV was founded while Rahmi Pehlivanli was still alive,
his sudden illness and death prevented the foundation from starting
its work. It was after the sad demise of the artist that the
foundation was renewed and their first goal set: the establishment of
a Rahmi Pehlivanli museum.
"'Turkey: Color by Color' is perhaps one of the most important
collections in the world. There is no other example like it, in which
one artist painted an entire country, visiting every single city and
district. The collection is also important as a documentary. Turkey, a
rapidly changing country, experienced its most rapid development
between 1980-1990, the time we were travelling all around the country
for the collection," Nurhan Pehlivanli recalls.
"Most of the places which Rahmi painted, then, is now under soil due
to excavations,??? some are now under water due to dam construction.
In addition, the collection, which was near completion when he died in
1992, has the aspect of reflecting the structure of Anatolia. These
paintings should be exhibited now. Therefore, I think the
establishment of a Rahmi Pehlivanli museum is a must, especially in
Ankara, because it is the center of the country and Rahmi's homeland.
I have contacted local administrators and officials in the Ministry of
Culture for this project," she adds.
'Turkey: Color by Color'
"Turkey: Color by Color" was a project Rahmi Pehlivanli had in mind
for many years. According to Nurhan Pehlivanli, the artist was
inspired by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish
Republic. In 1938, with the idea of reflecting the newborn country,
Ataturk wanted to send several painters to various locations
throughout Anatolia and to exhibit the works of these painters. The
project failed due to several reasons, and a second, similar effort
started during 1940s was also doomed to failure.
Rahmi, his wife Nurhan, who is also a painter, a driver and an
assistant started their journey through Anatolia in 1982.
"Rahmi was a in love with his country, and he knew Anatolian people
very well," says Nurhan. "He always told me that travelling in Turkey
would be like a second university education for him. It was really a
Rahmi Pehlivanli, who was known as one of the best
portrait painters in the world, had the chance to spread his fame
abroad, but he returned to his native country, which he truly loved.
Visiting the Pehlivanli's home in Ankara, Rahmi's love for his country
and the people of Anatolian is easily observable. Their home is
decorated with the many objects they collected during their travels
"Rahmi, stayed at palaces, presidential residences and the most
luxurious hotels while he was drawing the portraits of kings, and
presidents. He used to say that he finds rest at home where there
is only few local object," Nurhan recalls.
During their exploratory trip through Anatolia, which formed the basis
for the collection "Turkey: Color by Color," the Pehlivanli's were met
with the warm hospitality of the Anatolian people. "People were
showing interest. We met people for whom our visit was the first
contact with the plastic arts. It was not only painting, we were
giving more, travelling to Anatolia, paying attention to people and to
their culture. Close and warm relations are very important. You cannot
paint a portrait or even take a photograph before establishing such a
relationship. Every city and region has its own different, detailed
traditions. You have to know them. For example, in the Black Sea
region, you cannot take a photo of a local woman, even from a
distance. They are very conservative on this subject."
Pehlivanli's artistic career
Born in 1926, Pehlivanli has exhibited his work throughout Europe, the
Middle East and Africa, and his paintings can be found in museums and
private art collections all over the world. He is especially known for
his portraits of more than 25 kings and presidents including the late
American President John F. Kennedy, Prince Philip the Duke of
Edinburgh, the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the late
Turkish Presidents Celal Bayar, Cevdet Sunay and Turgut Ozal.
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