Fikret Mualla


20 Temmuz, 1967
Munich Fine Arts Academy, Berlin Fine Arts Academy Department of Painting
Diğer İsimler
Fikret Mualla Saygı

Painter (B. 1903, Istanbul / Moda - D. 19 or 20 Temmuz 1967, Reillanne / France). His full name is Fikret Mualla Saygı. His father was, Ekrem Bey (Mehmet Ekrem Mualla Saygı), the sub-manager of Düyun-u Umumiye (Ottoman Administration of Debts), his mother was Emine Nevber Hanım. During his childhood, he lived around Kadıköy, Bahariye. He had his education in Saint Joseph and Galatasaray high schools. He was addicted to football wityh the influence of his uncle, the football player Hikmet Topuzer. At the age of 12, when he was playing football at Galatasaray High School, once he broke his right foot and was crippled, he went through a major trauma. Upon his mother’s death at a young age because of the Spanish grippe he carried from school to home, feeling of guilt dominated the life of Fikret Mualla. The traumas he experienced made Fikret Mualla a nervous and maladjusted person. He never accepted his father’s marriage. He was sent to Switzerland to study engineering after completing the Galatasaray.

In Switzerland, he realized that painting was more interesting than engineering for him. During his studentship times in Switzerland when the First World War was continuing, he was totally moneyless. With the support of Rıza Bey, the consular of the period, he passed to Germany to have education on painting. He had education on poster and couture from Munich Fine Arts Academy and then on painting from Berlin Fine Arts Academy. When he was in Germany, the financial situation of his father worsened and then he couldn’t send any money, whereon he was financially supported by Abbas Halim Pasha, the Egypt Khedive. In Germany, he became isolated because of his lameness and shyness and was drinking when he was not painting. He firstly had to receive treatment because of alcohol dependency in 1928 in Germany. After his treatment, he visited the art centers in Italy and France.

Fikret Mualla returned to Turkey in 1937 due to the financial difficulty he experienced as he did not receive any more money from home. He worked as a painting teacher at Galatasaray High school from where he graduated and in Ayvalık secondary school for a short time. He was disappointed about the attention he attracted in the Istanbul art environments and even his works were despised. He directed his interest to literature for a while. He wrote “Şiller (Schiller) 1759-1805, Hayatı ve Eserleri (T.N. His Life and Works”) about Schiller, whom he compared to himself (1932). His stories “Usera Karargahı” and “Masal”, which were published in magazine Ses in 1938 are the products of him as a man of letters. 

During that period, Mualla earned his living by drawing stage costumes and illustrating books. He moved to Beyoğlu district also because of his interest in Semiha Berksoy, the soprano of Istanbul Şehir Tiyatrosu (T.N. Istanbul City Theater). He drew the costumes of the operettas performed onstage at Istanbul Şehir Tiyatrosu like “Lüküs Hayat”, “Deli Dolu”, “Saz Caz”. He illustrated the articles in the magazine Yeni Adam of İsmayıl Hakkı Baltacıoğlu. He also published the portrait designs and cartoons of the artists of the period in the same magazine. He illustrated the books, Varan 3 and Benerci Kendini Niçin Öldürdü? of Nâzım Hikmet. He continued painting and painted landscape pictures of several cities of Istanbul. He opened his first exhibition in 1934 containing watercolor paintings and designs.

During his Istanbul times, art enthusiast Salah Cimcoz allocated him a comfortable working place in his mansion in Moda. In this house, he was giving painting lessons to three children of Cimcoz (one of them was Emel Hanım, which would be the wife of the President Fahri Korutürk). However, upon a dispute with Salah Cimcoz while Fikret Mualla was drunk, he went to the mansion and destroyed all portraits he was working on. He was subject to inquisition and prosecuted because of his improper sentences about the statesmen whose portraits he was drawing. His police phobia, which would not leave him throughout his life, started. After this event (1936), he was hospitalized in Bakırköy Ruh ve Sinir Hastalıkları Hastanesi (T.N. Bakırköy Psychiatric Hospital) for one and a half year. In this hospital, he was under control of the famous doctor Mazhar Osman and roommate of Neyzen Tevfik.

In 1938, Fikret Mualla inherited a big heritage upon death of his father. He decided to move to Paris after selling his assets. Before he went, he painted about thirty pictures asked by Abidin Dino on Istanbul, to be exhibited in the Turkish pavilion at 1939 International New York Fair. In the same year, some of the designs he has drawn for magazine Ses were found smutty and he was sued. Fikret Mualla, who was among the first generation painters of the Republic, after his acquittal, went to France, where he would live for twenty six years.

When he went to France, expressionism was on the agenda, of which painters like Edvard Munch and Wassily Kandinsky were the representatives. Fikret Mualla was influenced by this approach too. Fikret Mualla, who lived an entertaining, luxury life for a short period in Paris, entered into hard times together with the beginning of the Second World War and the occupation of France. It is said that, during that times, he undersold his pictures in order to meet his daily needs. Because of the problems he experienced due to alcohol, police phobia and longing for home, he was hospitalized a few times. Fikret Mualla was trying to overcome the problems by painting and drinking. He fell in love with his painter friend Hale Asaf from Germany but without being reciprocated. During his hospital times, he didn’t suspend painting. His subsequent life continued under the protection of several art enthusiasts.

Fikret Mualla was saved by Dina Vierny, to whom he was drawing pictures, during his hospital days. In 1954, he opened his first exhibition in Paris with the paintings he made there. He had not collectively exhibited his works anywhere for 25 years. Until that date, those who wanted to buy his works, were finding them at Paris cafes and generally getting them at a bargain price. Two painting brokers organized his first exhibition. His works attracted great interest in the exhibition and all of them were sold. The painting brokers defrauded him by not giving the money they promised, but that exhibition magnificently introduced the artist to the Parisian art environments, ensured him to be known as the “Painter of Paris”. He met many renowned artists and attracted Picasso’s interest. He opened his second exhibition two years later and was hospitalized once more after the exhibition. After his discharge, he made an agreement with industrialist Lhermin. Within the same period, he met Madam Angles, who was a continuous buyer of his pictures.

Mualla made paintings with the Paris theme and gradually gained a reputation in Paris. His works started to be collected by collectors. But he couldn’t establish an organized life. The care of the artist, who was paralyzed in 1962, was undertaken by an art enthusiast Madame Fernande Angles, whose husband was the senator of the Alps region. Madame Fernande Angles, who was the wife of Raguel Angles, brought him to her farm in Reillanne accompanied by a caregiver. He produced many works in this farm for Madam Angles until his death in 1967. He was put in a clinic after nervous breakdowns in May 1967. He was found dead on July 20, 1967. He was buried in the Paris cemetery of the nameless.

Due to his unsteady and bohemian life style, not only his art but his life too passed into the history of painting virtually as a mythology. According to his will, his remains were brought to Turkey in 1974. Since he had delivered painting lessons to Emel Hanım, the wife of the President Fahri Korutürk, during her childhood and so the President Fahri Korutürk took care of him, his bones were brought to Istanbul and were buried at Karacaahmet Cemetery.

Fikret Mualla painted in order to be happy and to forget everything. For this reason, he wasn’t influenced by various movements in the world of arts, he created his own style in his paintings following his intuitions and he painted lyrical pictures. He didn’t reflect his ill-tempered, uncompromising personality and unhappy life to his paintings; he made paintings full of the joy of living. Mualla, who loved to draw cities, integrated the people, streets, cafes, cirques, bordellos and fishermen of Istanbul and Paris into his paintings. The artist, who liked playing with the colors, was known to be impressed very much from Henri Matisse’s use of colors. However in any case, was an important representative of Turkish painting in Paris, where most of his life passed and he made himself accepted within the limitless art environment of that city.

He generally made his paintings on colored background papers using gouache paint. He also used watercolor and pastel materials frequently in his paintings. It is known that, the works of Fikret Mualla, whose recognition in Parisian art environment took up some time, were praised by Picasso, moreover he bought one of Fikret Mualla’s paintings, and presented Fikret Mualla one of his works and Fikret Mualla sold it for one bottle of raki. Among the outstanding works of Fikret Mualla are “Sitting Men”, “Cafe”, “French Workers at a Café in Marseille”, “The Golden Horn and Süleymaniye Mosque”, “A Street in Paris”, “Balloon-Seller”. “Fisherman”.

His paintings, which were put up for auction after his death, were bought by the Turkish State and a Fikret Mualla Hall was founded in the Ankara Resim ve Heykel Müzesi (T.N. Ankara State Museum of Painting and Sculpture). In 1976, an exhibition in Ankara involving one hundred and eighteen paintings collected from his friends, his relatives and various collections was arranged for his name. Today, most of his works are in private collections. There is an association called “Fikret Mualla’s Friends Association” in Paris.

Oil painting sample

Sample 1

Sample 2

Sample 3

Sample 4

Sample 5

Sample 5


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