This study of ship paintings in Turkish museum collections highlights possible links between written language change and changes in the presentation of visual narratives related to nation building in the early years of the Turkish Republic.
While Turkish painters’ depictions of maritime life, ships, and sea scenes were largely based on European models throughout the period of the Ottoman Empire, a change appears in paintings of ships during the early period of the Turkish Republic. At the same period during which the Turkish language in its written form was revamped to be read as Latin characters, from left to right, as opposed to in Arabic script, right to left, narrative clues in paintings of the same period suggest that paintings, too, reflected this change, and began to be “read” from left to right. Efrat Biberman has explained that visual representations always contain “visual” and “narrative” aspects. The visual aspect of painting allows “a simultaneous observation of it, in which the painting is spread out in front of the viewer and she can see it fully,” while the narrative aspect “assumes that a temporal sequence can be attributed to a picture despite its being viewed at a single point in time.” Using examples from several collections, this paper develops a model for examining movement and direction in visual portrayals of historical events, comparing European, Ottoman, and Turkish works. This model, it is hoped, may shed light on whether, during a period of rapid change in Turkey during which the way script was read transformed virtually overnight, the way paintings were read also changed.
|Keywords:||Language Change, Nation Building, Narrative, Painting, Visual Arts, Maritime Arts, Turkey|
Assistant Professor, English Language and Literature, Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey
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