Our Lecturers

A Century-Old Lecturer

98-year-old Prof. Dr. Oktay Aslanapa, being among the founders of Art History in Turkey, is still giving lectures at Istanbul University. 

(Reporter: Research Asist. Mesut Aytekin, “A Century-Old Lecturer”, Istanbul Unıversıty Science Culture And Arts Magazine, Issue: 8, Istanbul University Press and Public Relations Department, Year: 2012, p: 58-65) 

Oktay Aslanapa was born in Kütahya on December 17, 1914, as the son of Mr. Mehmet Celâl and Mrs. Esma Hacer. He is one of six children of a father, who was a watch repairer. He went to Barbaros Primary School. Then, he entered Bursa High School and graduated from there in 1934. During his summer holidays, he had worked at the glazed tile factory.

For his high education, he sought a public boarding school. At that time, Teachers’ High School arranged an examination. He passed the exam and enrolled in Istanbul University’s Faculty of Letters.

Oktay Aslanapa tells about his childhood and youth times;

“My year of birth is 1914. It was the Otto­man Period then. Mehmed V Reshad was on the throne. In 1915, the Battle of Çanakkale sparked. Military called 400 people from Küta­hya, to take them to Çanakkale, and my father was among them. They came to Haydarpaşa first, and needed a writer there. My father’s handwriting was very good. Then, he served in Selimiye Barracks as a writer. Afterwards, dur­ing the Battle, they experienced very hard times.

The war ended. Greeks came in İzmir and oc­cupied Kütahya. We went through those times. I was in Barbaros Primary School in Kütahya. Then the years of national struggle started. I was a first-grade student in my secondary education, when the Republic was proclaimed. After finish­ing high school, I wanted to go to university. My family’s financial condition was not that good and that’s why I sought a boarding school to enter. There was the teachers’ high school. I sat for the examination organized by that school and passed it. Then, I started my higher education in the Faculty of Letters.”

Prof. Dr. Cemil Bilsel, who was the uni­versity rector at that time, came together with students passing the exam, at the Blue Hall in central building.

Oktay Aslanapa tells, “There was four facul­ties available; Letters, Sciences, Law and Medi­cine. Prof. Dr. Cemil Bilsel gathered about 100 students enrolling in the university, at the Blue Hall in central building. He congratulated us one by one and made a speech. We started our university years with such ceremony.”

Oktay Aslanapa took his higher educa­tion at Zeynep Hanım’s Hall. For him, that hall, which became unavailable after the fire in 1942 and where today’s Faculty of Letters was built on its place, has a special importance. Aslanapa tells, “Zeynep Hanım’s Hall was one of the most beautiful pieces of Ottoman Archi­tecture. It was a large wooden hall, where of­ficial levees were organized at that time. After it was allocated to the university, it was used by Faculty of Letters and Faculty of Sciences. During the day, we were receiving education at classrooms in the hall, and at night, we were staying at Teachers’ High School.”

During Aslanapa’s student years, ground floor of the hall was used as the Faculty of Sci­ences, and other three floors were used as the Faculty of Letters. Faculty of Letters was giv­ing education with 4 departments, which were history, geography, letters and philosophy. In this educational institution, Aslanapa received courses from significant lecturers of that time, among them were Prof. Dr. Mustafa Şekip Tunç, Ord. Prof. Dr. Şemsettin Günaltay, Ord. Prof. Dr. İsmail Hakkı Uzunçarşılı and Ord. Prof. Dr. Enver Ziya Karal.

For accommodation and food needs, there was the Teachers’ High School, which was lo­cated at the upper side of Süleymaniye Gate of Istanbul University’s Beyazıt Campus. That building which is also known as Sarı Kışla (Yel­low Barracks) or Süleymaniye Kışlası (Süley­maniye Barracks) was demolished in the 1950s.

Oktay Aslanapa graduated from Istanbul University in 1938, with bachelor’s degree in history, philosophy and geography.

During his student years, Aslanapa came across Atatürk three times. He tells those years; “The first time I saw him was during my student years at Bursa High School. I was in second grade. One day, people said that Atatürk is coming and let’s go to the station to welcome him. The school selected a group of students. Then, we went to the station. The train came, and we saw that he is in the forefront, with a Russian Marshall next to him. They went to the city passing us by. The second time was in Istan­bul. When I was in the university, a Language Congress was held in Dolmabahçe Palace. The university selected 3 students to go there. And I was one of them. I saw Atatürk sitting at the lodge. The third time was at the train station. At that time, it took one day to go from Kütahya to Bursa. There was Yeniköy Station, we got off the train there, and got on another one to go to Bursa. One day, I was waiting for the train in Eskişehir, and suddenly, Atatürk’s white train arrived. He was like he rolled the window down and talking with an official there.”

In those years, the young republican admin­istration was sending young people to Europe to receive education on different fields. Oktay Aslanapa was one of them. He tells those days, “After I graduated from the Faculty of Letters in 1938, the ministry organized an examina­tion to send a graduate student to Europe to re­ceive specialized education on Turkish-Islamic Art. I sat for that exam. There were other branches available. And I won that exam.”

Aslanapa, who was sent to Vienna to receive education on Turkish-Islamic Arts in 1938, finished his doctorate education in 1943, with his thesis named “Die Osmanischen Beitrage Zur İslamischen Baukunst”.

After returning to Turkey, Aslanapa started to serve in the newly-established Department of Art History at Istanbul University’s Faculty of Letters as assistant to a professor. At that times, the Hall burnt down and then Faculty of Let­ters was temporarily moved to the building in Fındıklı. Aslanapa tells, “We commenced the works on institute of art history for the first time in Istanbul University and in Turkey, and by coincidence, Ernst Dietz was called from Vienna to serve as the head of institute. He was my lecturer in Vienna. After seeing me work­ing there, he assigned me as his assistant. It was towards the end of 1943 when we started serving there.” To perform all these works, they were given three sea-view rooms in the build­ing. On this floor, there is now a plate reading “This is the floor where education on art history was given for the first time”.

Oktay Aslanapa was granted with the title of associate professor in 1948, with his thesis named “Kütahya Tiles in Ottoman Period”. On May 20, 1956, he got married with Selma Günseli Pamukçu, and now has two daughters Ayşe Çiğdem (1957) and Fatma Banu (1961). In 1960, he became professor and head of the Institute of Art History. In 1953, he established the Institute of Turkish and Islamic Art. In 1977, he was selected as the director of Institute of Art History. In 1982, he served as faculty member of Department of Archeology and Art History and Director of Art History Research Center. In 1983, he retired of the age margin.

He had led some excavations on Art His­tory in Diyarbakır, İznik, Kalehisar, Kayseri- Keykubadiye, Konya, Van, Yenişehir and Bur­sa, and published their findings. By taking his students along with him during research visits in Anatolia, Aslanapa had made great contri­butions to their development. Aslanapa, who had made researches on Turkish Art History, especially on Architecture, Tile-Ceramics and Carpet Art, has about 250 pieces of publishings, consisting of books, articles and encyclopedia. According to Aslanapa, Turkish Art is one of the most important fields of art in the world and Turkish Art History and should be dealt with as a whole, not partially such as Seljukian and Ottoman Art.

Aslanapa, who is known with his modest na­ture, punctuality and working discipline, was granted with the Outstanding Service Award by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2007, for his contributions to the introduction of Turkish art and architecture abroad.

Although he’s 97, Aslanapa is still commit­ted to offering service to his country and he has a great love for science, and is still giving lectures both on History of Turkish Culture un­der Istanbul University’s Institute of Atatürk Principles and History of Revolution and on ceramics at Mimar Sinan University’s Depart­ment of Art History.



We thank Çelebi Bozkurt for their contributions



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n Edirne’de Osmanlı Devri Abideleri, İstanbul 1949.

n Turkish Arts, Seljuks and Ottoman Carpets, Tiles and Miniature Paintings, İstanbul 1961.

n Türk Sanatı, Selçuklu ve Osmanlı Halıları, Çini ve Minyatür Sanatı, İstanbul 1961.

n Anadolu’da Türk Çini ve Keramik Sanatı, İstanbul 1965.

n Türkische Fliesen und Keramik in Anatolien, İstanbul 1965.

n Turkish Art and Architecture, Faber and Faber, London 1971-Praeger, New-York 1972.

n Türk Halı Sanatı, YKY, İstanbul 1972.

n Türk Sanatı I, İstanbul 1972.

n Türk Sanatı II, İstanbul 1973.

n Yüzyıllar Boyunca Türk Sanatı-14.Yüzyıl, (hazırlayan ve mimari, çini, keramik, minyatür bölümleri), İstanbul 1977, s. 17-56.

n Kırım ve Kuzey Azerbaycan’da Türk Eserleri, İstanbul 1979.

n “Topkapı Sarayında Kalmış Bazı Kale Anahtarları”, Sanat Tarihi Yıllığı XI (1982), İstanbul 1983, s. 13-27.

n Türk Ansiklopedisi’ndeki maddeler: Selimiye Camii (Edirne), Selimiye Kışlası ve Camii, Seramik, Sultan Selim Camii.

n İslâm Ansiklopedisi’ndeki madde: Türk Sanatı.

n “Les Relations Culturelles et Artistiques Turca-Italiennes”, Attidel Simosio di Ricerche e di Studi per uno Svilluppo Scientifico dei rapporti İtalo-Turchi, (Cagliari) 1981, s.157-169.

n “Osmanlı Devri Cild Sanatı”, Türkiyemiz, Yıl 13, sayı: 38, Ekim 1982, İstanbul 1982, s.12-17 (ing. 43 vd.).

n Kuruluşu, Gelişmesi ve Dertleriyle İstanbul, Türk Edebiyatı, Mayıs 1983, sayı: 115, s.20-21.

n Osmanlı Minyatürlerinin Üslûbu, kaynaklar, sayı I/Güz, İstanbul 1983, s. 65-70.

n İstanbul Üniversitesi, Kuruluşu, Tarihçe, Teşkilât (yayımlayan), İstanbul 1983.

n Türk Sanatı, Remzi Yayınevi, İstanbul 1993.

n Osmanlı Devri Mimarisi, İnkılap Kitabevi, İstanbul, 2004.

n Türk Halı Sanatının Bin Yılı, Eren Yayıncılık, İstanbul 1987.

n Türk Sanatı ve Mimarisi (Arapça) Fenn-ül Etrak, Ircica Yayınları, İstanbul 1987.

n Türk Sanatı: Başlangıcından Beylikler Devrinin Sonuna Kadar, Kültür Bakanlığı Yayınları, Ankara, 1990.

n Pinner, R. & Denny, W.B. Orıental Carpet And Textıle Studıes II (Vol II) Carpets Of The Mediterranean Countrıes 1400- 1600, “The Early Ottoman Carpets” London, 1986, s.67-73.