Painter, archaeologist, curator (B. 30th December 1842, Istanbul – D. 24th February 1910, Istanbul. His father Ibrahim Ethem Bey, who was one of the first mining engineers in Turkey was a former Grand Vizier in 1877. He had two daughters and fourteen sons, and Osman Hamdi was the eldest of them. One of his brothers, Mustafa Bey was the chairman of Istanbul Customs Office and Ismail Galip Bey was the founder of the numismatic(the history and definition of medals and coins) in Turkey and Halit Ethem Bey was a curator.
After the primary education, Osman Hamdi went to Maarif-i Adliye(Law School) in 1856. His father wanted his sons to get educated abroad and sent him to Paris a few years later for law education. During twelve years in Paris, he was trained under famous French painters Jean-Léon Gérôme and Gustave Boulanger. While he was in Paris, Ottoman Empire sent Şeker Ahmet Pasha and Süleyman Seyyid to Paris for painting lessons. Those three men were the first generation of Turkish painting. Osman Hamdi exhibited three paintings at the 1867 Paris World Exposition, titled “Çingenelerin Molası”, “Pusuda Zeybek”, and “Zeybeğin Ölümü” but it is not known where they are right now. Osman Hamdi met his first wife Maria in Paris and had two daughters Fatima and Hayriye.
Once back in Turkey, he was appointed to several duties by the government. He first served in the Directorate of Foreign Affairs in the city of Baghdad. He painted various paintings of Baghdad and he was interested in the history and archeology of Baghdad, where Mithat Pasha was the governor. There he met the aspiring novelist Ahmet Mithat Efendi, who was the vice-governor of Mithat Pasha. Osman Hamdi became the vice-director of the Protocol Office of the Palacethe when he returned to Istanbul and he attended to Universal Exhibition in Vienna as a commissioner. There he met his second wife Marie, a French woman and she was called Naile Hanım. They had four children, Melek, Leyla, Nazlı and Ethem.
In 1875 he was appointed as the first mayor of Kadıköy and he had remained in his duty for a year. He resigned from the civil service during the Ottoman-Russo war (1877-78) and he was appointed as a museum director to Müze-i Hümayun (Imperial Museum) when Anton Deither(former director) died in 1881, upon the special order of the Sultan. On January 1st, 1882, he was appointed to another service by Abülhamit II. He was assigned to be the founder of Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (T.N. today’s Mimar Sinanr Fine Arts University), the first fine arts school of Turkey. He designed the school in association with architect Vallaury. The school was opened to education on 2nd March 1883 after its construction was completed and its academic staff was formed.
As a director of Müze-i Hümayun, his first act was to prepare legislation which forbade exporting the historical artifacts. In 1883 he readjusted “Asar-ı Atika Nizamnamesi (T.N. Law of Historical Artifacts)” dated 1874. This regulation stopped the smuggling of historical artifacts from the Ottoman lands to Europe. While he was the director of the museum, he conducted the first Turkish scientific archaeological researches. He performed archeological excavations in Mount Nemrut, Lagina (Muğla, Yatağan) and Sidon (Lebanon, 1887-88). One of the artifacts he found in Sidon was the Alexander Sarcophagusa, a masterpiece of the archeological world. The mentioned artifacts are still in İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi (T.N. Istanbul Archeological Museum). Osman Hamdi Bey wrote a book called “Une necropole a Sidon(Tomb of a King in Sidon)” in co-operation with the archaeologist Salomon Reinach about those excavations which brought him an international fame and it was published in Paris in 1892.
Osman Hamdi Bey assigned his close relatives to various excavations. His son architect Ethem Bey conducted excavations in Tralles antique city (Güzelhisar, Aydın) and found friezes of a temple attributed to Roman god Artemis and took it to Müze-i Humayun along with other numerous artifacts. He sent his brother, Halil Ethem Bey to conduct the excavations in Alabanda and Sidamara antique cities in Aydın. An officer at the museum, Makridi Bey conducted excavations in Boğazköy, Alacahöyük, Akalan, Langaza, Rhodes, Taşöz and Notion. A new place was needed to exhibit those historical artifacts. The artifacts were moved to Çinili Köşk (T.N. the Tiled House) from Aya İrini (Hagia Irene) but this place was not big enough. He persuaded the Sultan to build the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. It was built in three groups. The first part was opened to visits in 1899, the second one in 1903 and the third one was opened in 1907. There is a photography division, library and a pattern shop in the museum.
Müze-i Hümayun was mainly an archeological museum. Weapons and military equipment were left in Aya İrini and it was organized as “Esliha-i Akeriye Müzesi”. This new museum, which is the foundation of today’s Military Museum, was opened to visits in 1908. The storehouses opened by Osman Hamdi in other cities outside Istanbul became the foundations for the future museums in those cities. He collected the works of the students at Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi in the big hall of the school and ,started to form the seeds of the Fine Arts Museum. All those efforts made him the founder of Turkish modern museum curatorship.
Osman Hamdi Bey never stopped painting while he was also conducting archeological searches along with the museum managing. He drew his paintings at his home in Eskihisar and in Gebze in summer. He was the first person to use figural composition in Turkish painting. He subjected Turkish elites who read, discussed and modern women figures in his paintings. He used historical places as the decoration and historical items as accessory in his works. Most of his paintings are exhibited in İstanbul Resim ve Heykel Müzesi (T.N. Istanbul Art and Sculpture Museum) and in museums in London, Liverpool and Boston.
The artist died on February 24th, 1910 in Istanbul, Kuruçeşme. His funeral was brought to Çinili Köşk after a ceremony in Hagia Sofia and then he was buried in Eskihisar by his will. Two anonymous Seljuk stones were placed at his grave upon the decree of Board of Ministers. The mansion of the artist in Eskihisar is serving as a museum since 1987.
Osman Hamdi Bey was the first mayor of Kadikoy. He is regarded as the first Turkish archaeologist. His most important excavation was the Tomb of King in Sidon (Lebanon) in 1887-1888. In those excavations, he found the worldwide famous artifact, the Alexander Sarcophagusa. Osman Hamdi Bey, who founded the modern Istanbul Archeological Museum, was also the founder of Turkish museum curatorship. He had worked there for ninety-nine years and it became one of the leading museums in the world, thanks to him. He was the founder of Sanayi-i Nefise Mekteb-i Alisi, today known as the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. He was one of the first Turkish painters and the first to use figural composition in Turkish painting.
The most famous, attractive and unique paintings of him are: “Mihrap” (1901) “Kaplumbağa Terbiyecisi” (1905) ve “Silah Taciri” (1908). Other famous paintings of him are; Kahve Ocağı (1879), Haremden (1880), İki Müzisyen Kız (1880), Çarşaflanan Kadınlar (1880), Vazo Veren Kız (1881), Gebze’de Manzara (1881), Kız-Tevfika (1882), Türbe Ziyaretinde İki Genç Kız I, Türbe Ziyaretinde İki Genç Kız II (1890), Naile Hanım Portresi, Feraceli Kadınlar (1904), Pembe Başlıklı Kız (1904), Mimozalı Kadın (1906), Şehzade Türbesinde Derviş (1908), Beyaz Entarili Kız (1908), Kahvedeki Bozayı (1908), Çıplak (1867). There is a documentary about him of which the screenplay was written by Emre Caner and directed by Umut Hacıfevzioğlu) called “Kaplumbağa Terbiyecisi”.