UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Thinking continuity in the works and milieus of Fahrelnissa Zeid Jenkins, Megan Marie


This thesis investigates the capacities of modern painting in Turkey from 1914 - 1980 to model and perpetuate streams of thought central to a rapidly developing modernisation programme initially spearheaded by Atatürk, the country’s first President. I undertake this investigation by studying the works of Turkish painter Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901 - 1991), a wealthy noblewoman whose abstract paintings have recently found much superficial acclaim in the West. The following explores how Zeid’s paintings engaged these global idioms and blended them with Turkish, Islamic, and Byzantine painterly traditions to intervene and comment on trajectories of womanhood, capitalism, and modernity in Turkey. This thesis considers these paintings as both a product and perpetuator of many varied abstract machines, bringing into contact disparate ideas, ideologies, and milieus. To this end, my investigation considers Zeid’s use, approach to, or action upon three aspects of her oeuvre: abstraction, the figure, and appropriation. These investigations yield suggestions for fruitful views of Turkey, its histories, and its art history as topologies which are constantly shifting and pressing one another through stratification. Ultimately, this thesis centralizes and innovates upon earlier research done in the area of Turkish modernism (especially that of female artists) and makes suggestions for further critical scholarship to improve the dearth of such work to date. By extension, this analysis creates an incisive view of the artistic contributions integral to Turkey’s contemporary identity as a nation state.

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