Curator : Turgut Çeviker
The Architect of the Modern Turkish Caricature: Cemil Cem -- Turgut Çeviker
"He is not a man who says anything else but what is in his mind!" Talât Paşa (1)
In his childhood Cemil Cem is interested in painting. His works attract the attention and admiration of the well-known painters of that period. After his law education in İstanbul he was appointed as a clerc at the Paris Embassy, at the same time he studied political sciences and got acquainted with painters.
"The grain of art developped in his life as an artist in Paris. His artistic capaciy matured there. (...) Paris had put in front of him the limitless horizon of art. While pursuing his education at the Faculty his sharp lines were carried to his magic pencil. Furthermore some of his cariatures were praised by the Fench caricaturists and were published in the magazies" (2). But he drew caricatures mostly for himself and his friends. His art was nourished with European caricature culture, he was influenced by caricaturists Gustave Dore, Jean-Jacques Grandville, Jean-Louis Forain and Sem and almost realized a caricature of synthesis. When Cem was in Paris the Second Constitutinal Period was proclaimed in 1908. This event which had an important impact on the Turkish community affected the Turkish caricature in the same degree. The chain of Abdülmamid II was broken, the press welcommed the regained freedom with rejoice. The prohibition of humour and caricature was lifted. In this atmosphere hundreds of magazines and newspapers reappeared. When Kalem humour magazine was published in 1908 under the influence of Salâh Cimcoz who had been instructed with the european culture and painter and art critic Celâl Esat (Arseven) the humour literature and the art of caricature reached a level which had not been realized till then. Modern humour and caricature were established. The first of the cariatures sent from Paris by Cemil Cem were published in the eighth publication of Kalem and this continued till 1910. Kalem is like an orchestra of caricaturists İzzet Ziya (Turnagöl) , Sedat Nuri (İleri) , A. Rigopulos, L. Andreas, İon, İdis, d'Ostaya, Plaiçek, A. Scarelli and Fellah, its coductor is Cem. This strong and unwavering endevour realized the first revolution in the Turkish caricature. During the War of Independence (1919-22) this team determined the outline for the progress of caricature.
Although the despotic period had collapsed Abdülhamid II was still Sultan, Cemil Cem became a nightmare for him. During the reactionary event of 31 March (1909) although he was exiled he did not leave his grip on him. All the political events of the period took place in his caricatures. He criticized without pity the Committee of Union and Progress which had realized the revolution and later the Party of Freedom and Union not sparing all friendships. He explainssed and proved his decisive attitude:"A little before I had told you that I loved dearly Hakkı Paşa (Pasha) . When he became Grand Vizir I did not abstain myself from making his caricature. May be I did it against my feelings, but I did it. I could not act in another way. . Because he was on duty. He was the fulfilling one. He was the active person. I could not keep quiet for his doings. " (3)
Cemil Cem was a skilled master artist concentrating on caricature portraits. He realized his caricatures taking his inspiration from renowned persons. He created these caricatures one by one, they are like an analysis of character. After his separation from Kalem, he founded the magazine -carrying his name-Cem (1910) in its first publication he expressed his view on cricature with this title "A few words": "Caricature!.. It is a great word with a large extent! For making laugh an eye a little bit crossed eyed, a little bigger nose, a mouth with an unpleasant smile, a line drawn astray leaning on one side these sometimes cause anger. Instead of making laugh they provoke anger. An innocent thought can become a malicious demon.
Is the aim of caricature to be despised to cause contempt? Or is it to attain great esteem? My point of view is to honor it, but a little without ceremony, a little with excessive joy. Because caricatures are not done for ordinary people, but the caricatures are drawn for respectable persons. The persons who have no political or scientific role, an impact on the country cannot have their caricatures.
Caricature embodies a wit, a hint, a meaning, a sense, englobing these characteristics it should be considered like literature. With these evidences it should fly on the area of respect, and only on the area of respect. As one cannot support a joke which is not pleasant, a picture which does not possess a successful line is not a caricature but a bouffonnery" (4)
The caricatures of Cem are really a gallery of famous people. A gallery that comprises the state, persons who belong to art and to science. Cem who dreamt of a beautiful future which would be realized with the help of the"superior intelligent persons"was complaining like this:
"My anxiety is different, if we are at war or if we concluded a peace treaty what is necessary for us is the state. I say to myself, in this fertile country instead of eggplants growing like trees, watermelons reaching the dimensions of the burden of a camel, corns attaining the height of poplars that they should stay in the same dimensions everywhere else, in their places statesmen should be number one and should be educated in order to be more useful. " (5)
During the years between 1908-1912 we do not observe decsent ascent in his drawing line, his style and his comprehension. He had to put an end to this period from his own free will by closing Cem because of the defeat of the second Balkan War. During the War of Independence he was in Europe. He came back while the war continued, he became the headmaster to the Academy of Fine Arts. (Sanayi-i Nefise) In 1927 he published Cem for the second time. According to Ferit Özgen:"his drawing line had lost its attacking power". But all the same he had trouble with the politıcal power. He was sentenced to one year, he was saved by the court of appeal, but a short time later because of a caricature of Recep Peker Cem was closed for good and became history. (1928). After this date Ankara did not give the permission of publishing a magazine. He retired in seclusion. During this last period he became a member of the İstanbul Municipality Town Council and spent most of his time realyzing oil paint drawings. In his drawing "Meşrutiyet Ricali Veliefendi Çayırında" "The dignitaries of the Constitutional Period at Veliefendi Prairie" all the famous people took place. This work which is at the same time the atlas of his caricature adventure is his farewell to caricature.
_ Silah ve Meşale, Adam Yay. . , İst. Ocak 1989, ss. 13, 15_18.
_Milliyet Sanat Dergisi, 1. 3. 1989, S. 211, SS. 21-22.
1) Feridun Kamdemir, "Üstat Cem", Yedigün, 1936.
2) Taha Toros, "Türk karikatürünün babası Cemil Cem". Tarih ve Toplum, Nisan 1984, S. 4, s. 33.
3) Feridun Kandemir, "Üstat Cem", Yedigün, No. 154, s. 21.
4) Cem, 28. 11. 1910, S. 1, s. 3.
5) Hilmi Yücebaş, Karikatür Üstatlarımız Cem ve Ramiz, İst. 1959, s. 25.
They say that there are more people with "common sense" than the stupid ones.In regard to the lack of value of common sense is it not necessary to put "genius" in a place outside of it?In fact,the mysterious sharpness of intelligence which we call "genius" does not possess an understandable meaning in any learning,where common sense stops it runs,when it withdraws genius closes its eyes and jumps.The word "genius"can be considered as the letter "X" which expresses the unknown in an equation;it flies over the universe as an unconceivable creature and leaves the key of a "secret" revealing to those who are lost in endless horizons the loneliness of simplemindedness and the astonishment of common sense.
For that reason Cem is a genious.The eye of Cem is an unexplainable organic monstrosity and its vision is a force among the forces which are not been understood.This eye does not only see as ours but specially remembers.When he draws his persons it is difficult to understand the superiority and the priority of Cem when compared with an ordinary painter.To those who ask the secret of this queer peculiarity Cem answers like this:
_ When I am in front of a model "nature" seduces me constantly.Because the shape of a model neither from the front nor from the side or downward or upward does not show the main line which fixes the spychological qualities.What I am searching for is the important great" spiritual line of life" which is the result of all those seen physical lines.
These words conceal a mysterious inner study and perhaps comprises the principle of the whole of an art.What Cem is saying is exactly the reality itself:our shape is a trick,a ruse and a lie.Human being is done contrarily to fruits, its sweet meat is outside and the inner part is the untouchable one. Smile, laughing and weeping are the curtains for hiding the comical and disgusting aspect of the soul which as an awry and fearful animal squatting down on its heels looks anxiously.The eye of Cem sees the ugliness and the guile and the tricks of the soul hidden behind these curtains and this eye repels them by a sharp observation. How? Who else can know it but himself? Those who have the honor of entering into the atelier of Cem see the humanity torn to pieces in a tragic,terrible way hanging on the walls.As meat which is skinned those distorted, fat, thin or short people are an "ambition", "an envy", "a hatred", "an arrogance" or "stupidity" they are those with whom we are acquainted and with whom we converse so-and-so.
The eye of Cem is the hell of souls.
Bize göre, Gurebâhâne-i Laklakan, Frankfurt Seyahatnamesi,
(Haz.Mehmet Kaplan), Devlet Kitapları, İstanbul 1969, ss.112 - 113.