The Life and Work of Artist Abidin Dino

Turkish artist Abidin Dino (1913-1993) was a multifaceted
man of culture who experienced the great upheavals of the 20th century,
including two world wars, social revolutions, the end of empires, who bore
witness to all these episodes of world history in words, lines, colors and
shapes. In pursuit of a prolific life in art, Dino was not merely a painter and
writer, but also an illustrator, cartoonist, ceramicist, sculptor and filmmaker
transcending boundaries. An extended version of this timeline was first
published in the catalogue of the exhibition ‘The World of Abidin Dino’ held at
Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum (SSM) in 2007. The photographs and
documents used in the text belong to SSM Abidin Dino Archive comprising the
artist’s draft texts, newspaper cuttings, as well as his correspondences, which
was bequathed to the Museum by the artist’s late wife Güzin Dino following the
exhibition. Drawings and studies for sculpture are part of the SSM Painting

Abidin Dino by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum

Abidin Dino was a Turkish artist who was a master drawer and painter. The artist saw two world wars, experienced periods in exile, and lived in numerous cities. Rather than dwell on his past though, the artist was keen to live in the present and dream about the future. Read on for a timeline of his life, and you’ll understand why his legacy lives on.

A Timeline of Abidin Dino's Life


On 23rd of March Abidin was born in a mansion in the Nişantaşı neighborhood of Istanbul. He was the fifth child of the Director of Public Accounts, Rasih (Dino) and his wife Saffet, his older brothers were Arif, Ali, Ahmet and his sister was Leyla. In September the family moved to Geneva.


In 1920 the family decided to move to Paris, but five years later the Dino family left France to return to Istanbul via the Greek island Corfu, then under Italian occupation. After first losing his father and then his mother, Dino devoted all his time to drawing, painting and cartoons.

“After my parents died I came to Babıali to make a living [...] I published my first cartoons in Yarın, the opposition newspaper of those days [...] If we collected those early cartoons of mine, we may find interesting things there.” – Dino during an interview with Selçuk Demirel, Milliyet Sanat Dergisi

Sketch for the portrait of Arif Dino by Abidin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino went around the opium dens together with his brother Arif Dino, drawing, illustrating and writing texts. His illustrations and articles were published in the artist magazine run by Fikret Adil.

He recorded his impressions on contemporary society through his cartoons and illustrations. Nâzım Hikmet’s Sesini Kaybeden Şehir (The City Which Lost Its Voice), was the first book he illustrated that was published by Remzi Publishing House in Istanbul.


A year later Dino participated in the exhibition organized by Verein der bildenden Künstler in Vienna, together with Cemal Nadir and other Turkish cartoonists.

Then in 1933, together with Cemal Tollu, Elif Naci, Nurullah Berk, Zeki Faik İzer and Zühtü Müridoğlu, Dino founded the “d Group”, which he described as 'the first avant-garde painting group in Turkey'. In October the d Group had its first exhibition in the Mimoza hat shop on the ground floor of Narmanlı Center at Beyoğlu, Istanbul.

Abidin Dino with director Sergei Yutkevich, Leningrad (1934-37) by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino met the Soviet film director Sergei Yutkevich who was in Istanbul, shooting the documentary Ankara-Heart of Turkey. Yutkevich invited him to Leningrad, the Lenfilm studios, where Dino took part in the making of the movie Miners as decorator and artist.

Abidin Dino with Vera Trauberg, his close friend in Moscow (1934) by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


While living in the Soviet Union, Dino worked again with Sergei Yutkevich for the movie The Man With The Gun. In the Soviet Union, which was ruled by Stalin, exiles and executions were becoming increasingly more frequent, rendering the country dangerous for everyone. Dino left and went to Paris at the end of the year. He formed close relations with the art circles of the city, and especially with Tristan Tzara, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau and André Malraux. He designed the sets and costumes of Gertrude Stein’s opera, Faust Lights The Light.

Fikret Adil, Sedat Nuri İleri and Abidin Dino, Unknown, 1938/1943, From the collection of: Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Show lessRead more

Güzin and Abidin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino returned to Istanbul for his military service. Together with a couple of friends he published small magazines and was creative in various branches of art, especially painting. He drew cartoons for newspapers. While living at his sister Leyla’s Kamelya apartment building, he met Güzin who lived nearby and the pair soon grew close.


Dino was selected to be the decorator and art consultant for the two Turkish pavilions to be prepared for the New York Fair. But he could not go as he could not get a passport.

Instead, he contributed to the content and design of Ses, Yeni Ses, Yeni Adam, Servet-i Fünun and Yeni Edebiyat magazines. Together with Avni Arbaş, Nuri İyem, Selim Turan and a few other young artists, Dino founded the Liman Grubu (The Port Group), which opened an exhibition about dock workers six months later.

Melih Cevdet Anday, Güzin Dino and Abidin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum


The artist studied the contradictions and links of the aesthetic and the political, of the abstract and the concrete with his brother Arif, and created large designs inspired by World War II.

When the Ses magazine was prohibited, he participated in the preparation work for the Küllük magazine which was only published only once with his illustrations on the cover and inside.

Dino was exiled to Mecitözü, a small Central Anatolian town for political reasons. After Mecitözü, he was exiled to Adana where he worked at Ferit Celal Güven’s Türk Sözü newspaper. He was then exiled to Adana for similar reasons, where he made small sculptures.


On 23rd of September 1943 he married Güzin Dike, who was an assistant at Istanbul University. They moved to a house in Adana, on the street bearing his grandfather Abidin Pasha’s name.

Cover of the play ‘Kel’ (1944) by Abidin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino continued to have his work banned, his play Kel (Bald) was published by Adana’s Türksözü publishing house, but was prohibited and confiscated by a decree of the Council of Ministers. He wrote a screenplay called Toros Destanı (The Taurus Saga) on the Gülek Victory of the region’s villagers against French occupying forces, but that was banned by the movie censorship council. However, his cartoons, short stories and articles were published in the Türk Sözü newspaper.


At the end of the year, Dino was suddenly sent to Kayseri for military service, but was discharged nine months later for health reasons.

The artist was permitted to go to Ankara where his wife, Güzin Dino had been appointed as associate professor.


Dino was severely ill throughout this year. While in bed, he finished writing the play Verese. In addition to this, his first studies on the famous architect Sinan ilgiliwere were published in Selçuk Milar’s magazine, Eser.

Mehmet Ali Aybar (1969) by Abidin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum


Together with Mehmet Ali Aybar, Dino published the magazine Nuh’un Gemisi (Noah’s Ark) where he wrote articles under a pseudonym.


The martial law was lifted and Dino was allowed to return to Istanbul.


At this point in his career, Dino left the canvas and produced 90 modern items of ceramics, inspired by the ancient Anatolian pottery traditions. He went to Rome for a while to escape the severe political conditions of Turkey. Güzin received a short leave of absence from her university and joined him.

Pablo Picasso and Abidin Dino by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


In April his ceramics were confiscated in Istanbul, some of them would be lost during a long investigation process. Below, Güzin tells her husband of the ordeal:

“Sweetheart, I wrote to you last night, saying that I did not receive any letters from you and I was worried. [...] I have some bad news for you, but probably things will improve. On Tuesday the 22nd, in the morning a police officer from the political section came and took away the ceramics as per a decision of the public prosecutor [...] Yesterday the experts were due to gather at the prosecutor’s office to determine if any of the pieces had a criminal element (it is argued that you drew hammer and sickles on the ceramics!)” – Güzin Dino, İstanbul, 25 April 1952.

Dino was invited to participate in the Venice Biennale as well as the group exhibition at Galleria Dello Zodiaco in Rome and the Art Club exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. He decided to settle in Paris and continued socializing with the city's art elite.


Güzin also left Turkey and joined Dino in Paris. On Picasso’s request, the artist started to work with himself and Marc Chagall at the Madoura ceramics workshop at Vallauris, thus improving his budget to create more work.

Güzin Dino and Abidin Dino, Unknown, From the collection of: Sakıp Sabancı Museum
Show lessRead more

Design for the cover of Contes Turcs by Pertev Naili Boratav (1955) by Abidin Dino and Pertev BoratavSakıp Sabancı Museum


On February 11, Dino opened his first exhibition in Paris at the Klébert Gallery. The theme was Torture and the Atomic Scare. The invitation was in the form of a letter and was in poet Philippe Soupault’s handwriting.

At the La Demeure-Rive Gauche Gallery, Paris (1956) by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


The couple moved to the apartment at 13, Quai St. Michel, Paris, near the river Seine, which had previously been Max Ernst’s studio and where they would live until 1971.

Between 4-20 May he exhibited his Long March and large oil flowers at the La Demeure-Rive Gauche Gallery, Paris. He also participated in the group exhibition at the Matarasso Gallery, Nice. He organized a series of exhibitions, including Lurçat’s woven pictures at several South American countries.


His work Long March was then on show at Cadan Gallery in New York. Many of his large oil paintings as well as more than black-and-whites were sold in Chicago, Dallas and other American cities.

During his success in America, Dino’s brother Arif died, but the artist still wasn't welcome in Turkey and therefore could not go to his funeral.

Abidin Dino by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino opened an exhibition together with Avni Arbaş at the Picasso Museum in the Antibes, where he'd been staying during the summer. He also took part in the L’art au Village group exhibition in the Antibes.


A year later, Dino held his Space Paintings exhibition at the Schoeller Gallery, Paris. The show reflected the core of his previous and later exhibitions.

Nâzım Hikmet by Abidin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino held a personal exhibition at the Deent Gallery, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. They met with Nâzım Hikmet and his wife Vera in Paris.

In the following years the artist has exhibitions again in Paris and for the first time in Prague.

Abidin Dino and Güzin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino’s Long March exhibition showed again, this time at Ryter Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland.

Later in the year he participated in the Turkish Artists exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Paris. He also participated in the World Artists exhibition at the Ibn Haldun Museum, Algeria.

Flyer introducing the crew and the equipment of the documentary Goal! by Abidin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum


The artist's two large-sized works War and Peace created in 1939 were exhibited at the Dom Pisatili Gallery, Moscow. Dino reflects on the experience below in a letter to his wife:

“Dear Güzin, It is not 20 but 30 below zero this morning, but I dress very warmly, Nâzım’ın coat with furs, a nice fur cap etc. Yesterday the exhibition opened with an 'elite' type of crowd, led by Lili Brik etc. Simonov and Yutkevich spoke, and there were many old friends. Unfortunately Vera, Hesa and Erast had the flu and could not attend, they were terribly sorry. I drop by Vera almost every day, she makes me eat wonderful meals, everyone is busy feeding me actually...” – Abidin Dino, Moscow, 3 February 1966

That same year, Dino directed the World Football Cup documentary, the movie Goal! The film was found worthy of British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ Robert Flaherty Documentary Award. However, on Dino return from London, he was hospitalized with severe pains and high fever, and diagnosed with nephritis.

Abidin Dino in Paris (1968) by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino was on the streets of Paris during the student demonstrations, he marched and attended meetings together with them and drew pictures of the activities on the streets, which can be seen in this image.

The year also saw Dino have a handful of successful shows. He had a three day-long personal exhibition on the events at the Sorbonne University, and a ceramic tiles exhibition at the Henriette Gomez Gallery, Paris. The artist also participated in the Artists Against Racism group exhibition at the Gallery Museum. Güzin’s mother, Ferdiye Dikel came from Istanbul to live with the couple in a nearby studio apartment.

Sabahattin Eyüboğlu and Abidin Dino (1969)Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Abidin Dino and Cevat Çapan (1969) by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino came to Turkey for the first time in many years in 1969. The minute he landed in the Istanbul airport, it was made clear to the artist that his unfavorable status still continued:

“An interesting episode pertaining to my friendship with Abidin Dino relates to his first visit to Turkey in 1969, after he had directed the 1968 World Football Cup’s documentary, Goal! On that day, [...] Dino was almost through the passport checkpoint without any problems, when they received a phone call and said, 'Mr. Dino, they want you to go to the Political Division.' We put his suitcases in our car, and followed the police car in which he was taken [...] Finally they let him go, on condition that he come again next day.” – Cevat Çapan


Despite the trouble before, the artist visited Turkey again and together with Metin Altıok he painted huge panes in support of the TÜBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) strike in Ankara.

Abidin Dino and John Berger by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


The Dino couple moved to the studio-flat at 10, Rue de L’Eure, allocated by the Paris municipality to artists, with the help of gallery owner Henriette Gomez.

Abidin Dino and André Verdet at the opening of the exhibition Flowers (1973) by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino participated in the 7 Turkish Artists exhibition at Venissieux Cultural Centre. The exhibition was reopened at the Sergi Berliet factory.

The artist also collected, organized and exhibited the works of 80 contemporary artists, including Miró and Picasso for the Homage to Parisian Peasant exhibition dedicated to Louis Aragon’s work and opened at the three passages of Panaromas, Verdeau and Jouffroy. Turkish artists such as Komet, Mehmet Nâzım, Utku Varlık, Kemal Bastuji, Nil Gerede and Mübin Orhon also participated in the exhibition.


Dino had his first personal exhibition in Turkey after many years, Ninety Flowers/Flowers If You Touch, which was organized by Ferit Edgü and opened at Vakko Art Gallery, Ankara.

Abidin Dino and Yaşar KemalSakıp Sabancı Museum


The artist's Ninety Flowers/Flowers If You Touch exhibition continued to travel to various galleries. That same year, Dino also became honorary president of UNAP (French Fine Arts Union).


In July, Dino was invited by UNESCO and Third World Research Institute to the 'Future of the Past’ conference at the native American Durango University at Colorado, Fort Louis. Later, he was invited to the sequel of the conference in Mexico City where he spoke on Turkish poet and Sufi mystic Yunus Emre.


After a series of successful shows in France, Denmark and Italy the previous year, in the winter of 1983 Dino had a gall bladder operation at the St.Antoine Hospital in Paris. In the summer, he found a lump in his throat, it was thought be cancer and the decision was that it would be monitored. In the meantime, the artist participated in the Human Views group exhibition at the Sculptures Gallery, Paris and participated in the d Group 50th Year Painting and Sculpture group exhibition at Garanti Art Gallery, İstanbul.

The next few years saw the artists continue to show at numerous galleries and he had more of his illustration work published in Turkey.

Abidin Dino and Ferit EdgüSakıp Sabancı Museum


Dino drew the poster for Cannes Movie Festival’s 26ème Semaine International de la Critique Française section. He also participated in the International Istanbul Biennial.


His work Pictures of Pain created after kidney surgery in Montpellier in 1967 was exhibited for the first time with the title Drawing Pain at Garanti Art Gallery, Istanbul. Le Mausolée du Maître Blanc, a book consisting of André Velter’s poem and Abidin Dino’s illustrations was published and sold by Fata Morgana Publications, there were only 12 copies and were sold at a price of 12,000 francs each.

Abidin Dino at the exhibition ‘This World’ on Seine, Paris (1989) by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


While taking part in other group shows, Dino participated in the Contemporary Art in the Islam World exhibition at the Barbican Centre, London.


A year later, the artist participated in the 10th Stockholm International Art Fair in Sweden. The Dino couple came to Turkey together for the first time after a long time. While there he participated in the 1940 Generation group exhibition at Tem Gallery, Istanbul.

After returning home, Dino was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, was operated on at the Laennec Hospital, Paris and underwent isotope therapy for four days.


The artist underwent radiotherapy for thyroid cancer for a month and a half at the Gustave Rousset Hospital at Villejuif, Paris. Despite his illness Dino continued to take part in exhibitions in France, have books and work published in Istanbul.


Unfortunately a year later, Dino’s thyroid cancer recurred. He was operated on and the lump in his throat was removed.

Abidin Dino in Paris by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum

Abidin and Güzin Dino (1993) by UnknownSakıp Sabancı Museum


On 23rd of September Dino and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at La Coupole restaurant, in Paris.

His throat got worse in Istanbul where he attended a group exhibition he was in, as result when he returned home Dino was hospitalized at Gustave Roussey Hospital in France. No radiotherapy was possible due to a heart condition being found.

Dino died in Paris on December 7, 1993 aged 80. His remains were brought to Istanbul and buried at the family tomb at Rumelihisarı Cemetery after the religious ceremony at the Bebek Mosque.

Funeral of Abidin Dino (1993) by Ara GülerSakıp Sabancı Museum

The sculpture consisting of hands designed by Abidin Dino at Maçka. (1993) by Abidin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum

1994 – today

In the years and decades that have followed Dino’s death an appreciation for his work could be seen in the number of commemorative events, exhibitions, re-publications of his illustrations and books that have taken place since 1993.

Abidin DinoSakıp Sabancı Museum

Abidin Dino by Tsong-han by Tsong-hanSakıp Sabancı Museum

Credits: Story

Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum's Abidin Dino Archive and Painting Collection are both available online at digitalSSM.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps