Printmaking in the World

Printmaking appeared just after the invention of paper. Examples of the first woodblock printing works were seen in China in the 9th century. In the 14th century, Europe encountered the first examples of printmaking through book illustrations made with woodblock printing. The first encounter with printmaking as a means of artistic production coincides with the 16th century, Renaissance period. With Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press and moveable type in 1440, use of woodblock printing began to subside. The coarseness of woodblock printing and the elaborate approaches of artists of this era in demonstrating the intricate detail of their work enabled new techniques to surface. Wood began to be gradually replaced by metals such as copper, and the first etchings appeared. Wood printing and carving quickly spread to Europe. Carvings in the style of Mantegna and Botticelli were made in Italy, while in the Benelux countries and France, other styles were produced. The exchange of ideas was hastened with the invention of printmaking, and this made the reform movement possible. The printing of images ensured the triumph of the Italian renaissance in other European countries. This led to a predicament that only the great masters could overcome, one of the factors that put an end to medieval art in the north.

14th and 15th centuries: For nearly all artists, printmaking continued to function as a means of reproduction for book illustrations.

15th century and later: In addition to making paintings, some artists also began to make art quality prints. These works, which started with the technique of printing pictures from wooden molds, after the 15th century began to be produced from copper molds, then from stone molds after 1799. Increasingly, copper was replaced by metals such as steel, zinc and aluminum.

At the beginning of the 16th century: The religious paintings that Lucas Cranach and Albert Durer produced as enumerated prints with the wood engraving technique appeared in the art market, and were sold as a filed series of works or single sheet prints. Prints were first sold in this period, and a segment of collectors of these works began to form. This demonstrates that the art buyer of that period accepted the originality of the print and acknowledged that it had artistic meaning.

At the beginning of the 17th century: Rembrandt made religious-themed paintings, portraits and landscape paintings using the metal printing technique. Alongside paintings, which continued to exist as “Art for the wall”, the development of “Filed Art” – where a series of prints were compiled and kept, was initiated.

In the 20th century: Particularly after the second half of the century, the boom in printmaking elevated these works from files to walls, next to paintings. Arguments over whether or not these works could be considered artwork ceased with ethical and broad acknowledgment of the fact that the artist themselves produced the molds, as well as printed or personally supervised the printing process and deemed the work original with their signature.

Printmaking in Turkey

With the westernization movements that started within the Ottomans in the 19th century, the first art school "Mektep-i Sanayi-i Nefise" was opened and a closer examination of European art began. With the renewal period in the Republic era, the name Mektep-i Sanayi-i Nefise was changed to Güzel Sanatlar Akademisi, the Academy of Fine Arts, in 1927. Léopold Lévy, who was brought over from Paris to be Chairman of the Painting Department, subsequently instructed many of the very well-known etching artists we recognize today, in the etching studio he established as part of the Academy of Fine Arts, thereby sowing the seeds for the development of printmaking in Turkey. The renewal and development of the Academy which commenced with Léopold Lévy was an important turning point. These westernization endeavors document a period and comprehension of original print production being acknowledged as a unique artistic language and technique with a different means of expression within the art of printmaking. In the 1930s, the etching tradition of "eau forte", which is linear expression and the technique required by it, took root. Burin [chisel], dry point and lithography works were also produced in the same period. The number of prints produced in this period is vast.

The Gazi Education Institute Art Education Department, which was opened in Ankara in the 1932-33 academic year, was established to train art teachers for secondary education institutions. During these years when D Group artists were employed as teaching staff at the Academy, Malik Aksel and Refik Epikman were staff members at Gazi Education. Artists such as Şinasi Barutçu, Ferit Apa, Hayrullah Örs and Sait Yada conducted graphic, writing and design lessons. The renewal trend that started at the Academy in 1936 was also evident at the Painting Department of Gazi Education Institute between 1935-50. During this period, in the field of printmaking, monotype and relief printing techniques were utilized in the department. Cemal Bingöl, Hasan Kavruk, Salahattin Taran and İsmail Altınok were among the first graduates of the Institute who maintained their work in art. Young artists such as Mazhar Ongun, Nejad Devrim, Mumtaz Yener, Avni Arbas, Fethi Karakas, Selim Turan, Ferruh Başağa, Nuri İyem and Neşet Günal who were trained in the academy’s panting department at the beginning of the 1940s were the first to resolutely produce etching and lithography prints in Turkey in the 1950s. In the period from the establishment of the Gazi Education Institute Art Education Department through 1960, the Institute’s artists who have become synonymous with original printmaking include Ferit Apa, Mustafa Aslıer, Adnan Turani, Mürşide İçmeli and Muammer Bakır.

In 1951, Aliye Berger, who worked independently, opened an exhibition with 140 prints. This exhibition is cited as the first printmaking exhibition in Turkey. Mustafa Aslıer also opened original print exhibitions in Istanbul and Vienna in 1959. In the 1960s, advances in technology were evident in the artistic context, and printmaking gained a distinct identity among art disciplines. The 1960s were marked as a period during which printmaking began to be learned throughout Turkey. During these years, three important proliferation centers for prints were established. The first was the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts, the second was the State Applied Fine Arts Academy, and the third was the Ankara Gazi Education Institute. The great academy fire of 1948 also affected Léopold Lévy's etching studio at the Academy, the only etching studio of this time, founded in the late 1930s, and it remained closed for many years until the 1960s. In the early 1960s, Sabri Berkel attempted to compensate the fire damage to the studio, as new presses were purchased and the studio was made suitable for etchings. Fethi Kayaalp was appointed to this studio as an assistant instructor.

Apart from the Academy, a printmaking studio was established in 1960 at the State Academy of Applied Fine Arts as a result of the initiative of Mustafa Aslıer, who had studied printing in Germany and had recently returned. This studio was also open to many external artists (such as Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, Aliye Berger, Cihat Burak) and became a source for the first production of artistic printmaking in Turkey. In addition, linoleum and woodcut works were produced by students in the Department of Painting of the Gazi Education Institute in Ankara, which was established in 1932, and towards the middle of the 1960s, as a result of the initiative of Şinasi Barutçu, Veysel Erüstün and Nevide Gökaydın, an etching studio was established. Later, with the efforts of Nevzat Akoral and Muammer Bakır to further develop this studio, training of Turkey's most important printmaking artists such as Mürşide İçmeli and Süleyman Saim Tekcan was made possible. In the 1960s, apart from those housed at institutions, a private printmaking studio belonging to Aliye Berger maintained its existence. Various artists produced artistic prints in this studio, which had a small etching press.