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The Republic of Turkey

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Turkey determined its formal cultural policy when the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923. The Westernization of Turkey, both in terms of art as well as in culture at large, was a top-down effort. During the Republican Period the primary aim was to change the public mindset and to create a modern society starting from the public sphere. Institutions and foundations which produced art in Western styles were quickly set up under the leadership of Atatürk, who was the founder of the Republic. Many artists from Turkey were sent abroad by the government between 1923 and 1950, mostly to Paris to be educated in visual arts. Paris at the time was seen as the center of culture and French was a shared language amongst educated people in Turkey at the time. Artists going to Europe after graduation from the School of Fine Arts and who were influenced by French impressionism are important figures such as Halil Paşa, Sami Yetik, Ruhi Arel, Avni Lifij. These artists in turn taught at the Academy of Fine Arts when they came back to Turkey. As a result of the declaration of the Republic in 1923 and the young country’s orientation towards the West, production and education in the field of Art accelerated. The years between 1923-1950 is a period wherein Turkish painting art modernized and interacted with European movements and rapidly set out to find its own identity. Some painters known as ‘D group’ (Zeki Faik İzer, Cemal Tollu, Nurullah Berk, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, Sabri Berkel, Cemal Bingöl) received training in the workshops of European artists such as André Lhote and Hans Hofmann and contributed to the development of art in Turkey by moving Turkish painting from a narrative mode towards a more intellectual approach. Artists and modern movements in the West had a significant influence on Turkish art in this period.