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Mehmet Cemil Cem

  • Cemil Cem is remembered as a cartoonist, although he also managed the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul for four years. While director of the academy, he supported Russian-speaking artists.
  • Given name:
    Mehmet Cemil
  • Last name:
  • Alternative names:

    Cemil Cem

  • Date of Birth:
  • Place of Birth:
    Istanbul (TR)
  • Date of Death:
  • Place of Death:
    Istanbul (TR)
  • Profession:
  • Introduction:

    Cemil Cem is remembered as a cartoonist, although he also managed the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul for four years. While director of the academy, he supported Russian-speaking artists.

    Word Count: 30

  • Signature Image:
    Cemil Cem (Turgut Çeviker Archive, Turkey).
  • Content:

    Today, Cemil Cem is remembered as a cartoonist, although he also managed the School/Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul for four years. An additional little-known fact is that, while director of the school, he supported Russian-speaking émigré artists.

    After studying law in Istanbul, Cemil Cem worked in a number of Ottoman consulates and embassies in Europe, including in Paris and Vienna. As a person interested in art, he met and communicated with various artists in these cities and also created some caricatures himself. At first, he occasionally sent his work to the Ottoman magazine Kalem but, after a couple of years, decided to quit his diplomatic career and take up the profession of cartoonist in Istanbul. There, he began publishing his own magazine, Cem, in which he was not afraid to satirise famous political figures and the social follies of his day. Two years later, in 1912, the magazine was shut down and its owner left, first for Izmir, and then for Europe. He later returned to Istanbul and from 1921 to 1925 was director of the School of Fine Arts (Fine Arts Academy) in the city. It was during this period, in 1923, that he provided assistance to the Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople. Unfortunately, it is not known how exactly this assistance was expressed, but the fact that Cemil Cem was elected an honorary member of the union speaks volumes. During the entire existence of the union, only a few such members were ever elected, all of them individuals who provided support of various kinds to Russian artists, including assistance with organising exhibitions. We have every reason to believe that Cemil Cem helped organise the final exhibition of the union, which was held in a YMCA building in Istanbul in 1923.
    In 1927, Cemil Cem resumed publication of Cem magazine, whose last issue appeared in 1929. According to Yasin Kayış, the final closure of the magazine was not because of censorship, but because Cemil Cem, who used to draw “Ottoman characters in fez”, simply failed to maintain his popularity in the new Turkish Republic. Thus, it is to the cartoons he created during the Second Constitutional Monarchy, rather than those of the Republican period, that he owes his status as “Father of the Turkish Caricature” (Kayış 2018). The last years of his life were mainly spent drawing and engaging in agriculture. He died on 9 April, 1950, at his home in the Moda district, in the street that bears his name and where his cartoons can be seen today. After his death, he was buried in the Istanbul graveyard of Rumeli Hısarı where Leonore and Curt Kosswig’s graves are located.

    Word Count: 436

  • Media:
    Cemil Cem (Turgut Çeviker Archive, Turkey).
    Mehmet Cemil Cem (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2021).
    Caricature by Cemil Cem from Cem, 18 November 1910 (Turgut Çeviker Archive, Turkey).
    Cem Street, Istanbul (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2021).
    One of the caricatures by Mehmet Cemil Cem (Photo: Ekaterina Aygün, 2021).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Anonymous. “V Soyuze Russkih Hudojnikov.” Presse du Soir, 3 January 1923, n.p.

    Anonymous. “Cem magazine and Cemil Cem as an opponent carricaturist.” Koç Üniversitesi Digital Collections, Accessed 21 December 2020.

    Coşgun, Kürşat. “Cemil Cem.”, Accessed 21 December 2020.

    Kayış, Yasin. “Cumhuriyet Döneminde Cemil Cem ve Cem Mizah Dergisi.” Çağdaş Türkiye Tarihi Araştırmaları Dergisi, no. 36, Spring 2018, pp. 89–105.

    Koloğlu, Orhan. Türkiye Karikatür Tarihi. Bileşim Yayınları, 2005.

    Word Count: 87

  • Acknowledgements:

    My deepest thanks go to Turgut Çeviker.

    Word Count: 7

  • Author:
    Ekaterina Aygün
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Cem Sokak 6, Caferağa, Kadıköy, İstanbul (residence and studio).

  • Metropolis:
  • Ekaterina Aygün. "Mehmet Cemil Cem." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • Leonore Kosswig

    The exiled biologist and photographer Leonore Kosswig was one of the pioneering women researchers travelling alone in the 1950s and exploring customs and ways of life in Turkey and Iraq.

    Word Count: 30


    The architecture magazine Arkitekt was an important platform for emigrated architects and urban planners such as Bruno Taut, Martin Wagner, Wilhelm Schütte, Ernst Reuter and Gustav Oelsner.

    Word Count: 28

    Union of Russian Painters in Constantinople

    The Union existed for less than two years but in that short space of time a tremendous amount of work was done by its members, refugees from the Russian Empire.

    Word Count: 30