Born in Istanbul, Ruhi Arel enrolled in the Naval Secondary School in 1886. He then entered the Imperial School of Naval Engineering in 1898, graduating in 1900 as a naval engineering officer. The same year, he was appointed as a painting teacher at the Naval Secondary School. In 1903, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts with Hikmet Onat, his classmate from secondary school. There, he took lessons from Salvatore Valeri and Joseph Warnia-Zarzecki. In 1909 he graduated, and left his post at the Naval Secondary School. The same year, he initiated the formation of the first artist’s association, the Society of Ottoman Painters. The society’s activities began in his own house in Şehzadebaşı. In 1909 he and İbrahim Çallı passed the examination for studying in Europe, earning the right to go to Paris. During his four years there, he attended Fernand Cormon’s studio at the École des Beaux-Arts and painted in the galleries of the Louvre Museum. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 he returned to Istanbul, where he began teaching perspective lessons at the Academy of Fine Arts. He took part in the Şişli Studio, which was established in 1917 to produce war paintings. In 1918, his works were shown in the War Paintings and Others exhibition in Vienna, along with other paintings made at the studio. He regularly participated in the Galatasaray Exhibitions from their inception in 1916 onwards, as well as taking part in group exhibitions in Istanbul, and many European countries.
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