Gurnard Still Lifes in European and Turkish Painting

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Dora Y., YILMAZ E.

JOURNAL OF ART HISTORY-SANAT TARIHI YILLIGI, no.31, pp.155-202, 2022 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.26650/sty.2022.1066090
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.155-202
  • Keywords: European painting, Turkish painting, still life, gurnard, symbols
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


In the history of art, still life-display arrangements of natural elements, such as flowers, fruits, games, and artefacts are remarkable. The objectives of fish-themed still lifes have differentiated over time in painting. The fish is an expression of abundance, fertility, and wealth. Besides anatomical peculiarities, such as large eyes and colorful fins, the gurnard's humanlike face and red color attracted artists and became a subject in Japanese, Turkish, and European painting. Because early Turkish paintings gave precedence to flowers and fruits, the theme of fish appeared relatively late, although fish abound in Istanbul's Bosphorus strait, owing to the Golden Horn. In Turkish painting, the 1914 Generation artists and then their students, who mostly studied in Europe, depicted the gurnard. Turkish artists who went to Europe between 1923 and 1933 began to work from an expressionist perspective. Because of their increasing tendency toward abstraction, naturalistic imitation lost significance except for infrequent examples. Thus, in Turkish painting, examples of fish-themed still lifes, which were previously infrequent, became even scarcer. This study is limited to examples in Turkish painting that depict the gurnard in a way that shows it's peculiarities. In examples detected as gurnard depiction, both the style and the characteristics attributed to the fish were ascertained and compared with European and Turkish examples. The remarkable place the gurnard has in Turkish culture, more so than in European culture caused it to be depicted with the feelings which peculiar to humankind.