Sabiha Rüştü Bozcalı


Described as “one of the leading female illustrators in Turkey”, Sabiha Rüştü Bozcalı, definitely deserves to be mentioned in the art scene chronology. And I will do so accordingly. However in the name of being honest, I need to explain how disturbed I feel every time “being female” is underlined while referring to the success of an artist/writer/scientist and so on.. During my thirty-something year length of life, I have never came across to an article stating “first male writer or painter” or whatever, as success is naturally acknowledged to be normal for men rather than women. Despite her astonishing  achievement, Bozcalı also was once exposed to this kind of unfortunate discourse during one of her job interviews. But I will come to this subject later – first let’s catch a glimpse of her inspiring life.

Born in 1903, Bozcalı witnessed both the establishment of a republic following the downfall of an empire and 2 world wars until her death in 1998. Encouraged by her artist mother, she had her first drawing lessons at the age of 5. Enjoying every second of it, she decided to pursue her artistic path abroad which led her to an enviable journey in Berlin, Munich, Paris and Rome where she had the opportunity to share an atelier with inspiring and well-known artists of the period – like Paul Signac, Giorgio de Chirico, and Lovis Corinth.
Her talent must have been so promising that the neo-impressionist painter Paul Signac praised her ambition and devotion to succeed in the art field with absolute sensibility and competence.

Luggage full of experience and determination, following her arrival in Istanbul, she continued her artistic production at the Academy of Fine Arts with Namık İsmail. However one of the turning points in her career was her participation in ‘Trips to Homeland’ (a.k.a Yurt Gezileri) organised by the People’s Centers (Halkevleri) between 1938 – 1943. Through this project, she captured in her drawings the vivid life in Anatolian cities where factories began to operate more and more with the industrial development.

BozcaliIn 1946, her illustrations were more in public sight since they were used as advertisement material for big companies of the time such as – Tekel and Yapı Kredi Bank.

From 1953 and on, she began to work as “Newspaper Illustrator” at major newspapers including Milliyet, Cumhuriyet, Tercüman, Yeni Sabah. Despite the fact that Peyami Safa, columnist at Milliyet, clearly (!) emphasised his unwillingness to work with a “woman”, luckily Bozcalı’s exquisite drawings describing her high skills, were more than convincing for other writers.

Very hardworking indeed, in addition to her input into newspapers – she illustrated encyclopaedias and various books, major one being ‘Istanbul Encyclopaedia’ of Reşad Ekrem Koçu.

Now the good news:  Salt Galata is exhibiting the professional production of Sabiha Rüştü Bozcalı – including her drawings, photographs, paintings, letters, postcards and Turkish and French publications – till February 28th.

So what about exploring her life a bit more visually now that you are familiar with her personal history?