Namık İsmail, the son of the calligrapher İsmail Zühdü, was born in Samsun. While studying at the Hamidiye School, he took his first painting lessons from Viçen Arslanyan. He studied at Sainte Pulchérie, Saint Benoît, and the Imperial School (the Galatasaray High School), and took painting lessons from Şevket Dağ at the latter. In 1911 he went to Paris, with the financial support of his family. There, he briefly attended the studios of François Schommer and Jean-Paul Gervais, before following İbrahim Çallı’s advice and transferring to Fernand Cormon’s studio at the École des Beaux-Arts. When the First World War broke out while he was in Istanbul in 1914, he was sent to the Caucasus front as an officer cadet. He took part in the Şişli Studio, established in 1917 to encourage artists to make war paintings. In 1918, he travelled to Vienna as the assistant to the art historian, painter, and statesman Celâl Esad Arseven, to assist him in the process of exhibiting the paintings that were produced in the Şişli Studio. The same year he went to Berlin, attending Lovis Corinth and Max Liebermann’s studios. When he returned to Istanbul in 1919, he taught art at the Gazi Osman Paşa School. In 1920 he went to Italy and stayed there for a year. He worked as the editor and picture editor of the İleri newspaper. He went to Paris in 1922, where he illustrated Pierre Loti’s book titled Les Désenchantées. In 1926, he became an inspector in charge of supervising painting instruction under the Ministry of Education. In 1927, he was appointed director of the Academy of Fine Arts, where he was also the head of a studio. During his tenure as director, he reorganised various facets of the Academy, restructuring the painting and sculpture departments in line with the curriculum implemented at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He held this post until his death in 1935.
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