Monday, July 11, 2011

The top ten watercolor scenes of Istanbul....?

Kız Kulesi - Maiden's Tower
Have I ever painted a tram ?...

...No never, I guess I could. I suppose it's possible I could be inspired, at some point maybe... suffice to say it's not a subject I'm instantly drawn to...

When I first came to Istanbul different gallery owners and well meaning locals told me that what I really needed to do in order to be a successful artist here; I had to paint the ten to twelve classic subjects in the city.

What they meant by this was that I should start by painting the famous antique tram which takes tourists and sightseers up and down a famous street on the European side of the city. I should then move onto portraying the other ten to twelve classic sights of the city, like everyone else does!

After hearing that the penny dropped, or the 'jeton dushtu' as they say here. I realised that all around me hanging on friend's walls, being sold as postcards, prints, jigsaw puzzles, on mugs, plates, key rings etc... was, you guessed it, the red tram of Istiklal Caddesi  (as the street is called).

My mind had clearly blocked that particular image out of my vision up until that point, now thanks to the powers of auto-suggestion I realised that the red tram was haunting me wherever I went.

The trouble is that I still don't really want to paint it, in fact wishing no offense to the millions who apparently adore it, I remain unmoved by that particular icon to Istanbul's comparatively recent past.

Which brings me onto the subject of today's painting. It's a classic view of the famous Maiden's tower in Istanbul (Kız kulesi), it's one of the 'must do' sights for landscape artists here. I'm a little embarrassed about this 'following of the pack' as it were, but at the same time I feel I captured some of the wind swept nature of the scene and dazzling sunlight which characterises that part of the Bosphorous.

The legends around the tower tell of a Princess (I suppose she'd have to have been Byzantine royalty) who was sent there to avoid dying of a spell cast upon her. She predictably died of a Snow White'esque attraction to apples, or was it snakes, maybe both.

Fausto Zonarro - Maiden's tower
Fausto Zonarro,  the court painter to Sultan Abdulhamid II is for me the unsurpassed master of Istanbul's orientalist painters. His stunning views of Istanbul remain a constant source of inspiration.  His works are all over this city and reveal a fascinating glimpse of what was here before the tides of modernity and traffic besieged this ancient place.

I hope to complete more of the 'must do' sights of the city, but as in the case of the tram it might take me a while....

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