Alexis Gritchenko

The Constantinople Years

7 February – 1 November 2020

Alexis Gritchenko,

Galata, April 1920,

pencil and watercolor on paper.

Meşher’s second exhibition “Alexis Gritchenko – The Constantinople Years” marks the 100th anniversary of the artist Alexis Gritchenko’s stay in Istanbul by bringing together—for the first time ever—over 150 watercolors, charcoal drawings, gouache and oil paintings by Gritchenko depicting the Istanbul of that period.

Ukrainian painter Alexis Gritchenko (1883–1977) fled from Moscow in the wake of the civil war and took refuge in the Ottoman capital under occupation, between 1919 and 1921. Despite the challenging conditions during the period he stayed in Istanbul, he explored the city street by street with notepad, pen, and brush in hand recording his impressions. From the moment he arrived in Istanbul he was captivated by the vibrant ports, markets, places of worship and the magnificent monuments. As a painter with an extensive knowledge of the city’s history, he was captivated by details such as the subtle differences between the bastions of the city walls, how the light of the setting sun reflected on the sea and on the domes and the graceful and mysterious way the veiled women walked as he observed them on the streets. This city that charmed him with all its attributes, in his own words, became a source of consolation in his less fortunate days.

During the two years he spent in Istanbul, he captured the spirit and the everyday life of the city in his artworks. Unbeknown, this period would be a turning point in Alexis Gritchenko’s career. In retrospect it can be observed that the distinctive style and the technical achievement of his Istanbul watercolors make them the most significant artworks of his oeuvre. It was not just the artworks he had produced during this time, but also the contacts he had established with painters, writers and artists that proved instrumental in his becoming a recognized artist.

Gritchenko documented Istanbul in his diaries and notebooks as well as his paintings. In 1930, almost a decade after departing Istanbul, he published his memoirs; Deux ans à Constantinople (Two Years in Constantinople). “Alexis Gritchenko – The Constantinople Years”, correlates the artworks with the artist’s contemporaneous writings to orient and guide the viewer through Gritchenko’s Istanbul of one hundred years ago.

Among the archive documents and publications included in the exhibition is an edition of “Deux ans à Constantinople” from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s private collection of books. Furthermore, the exhibition gathers and showcases artworks loaned from over 20 museums, archives and private collections from seven countries including the National Art Museum of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Museum New York, the Centre Pompidou, and Collège de France. Offering the most comprehensive selection compiled from Gritchenko’s artworks on Istanbul to date, the exhibition pays homage to the artist’s dedication to work and enthusiasm for life.


Şeyda Çetin, Ebru Esra Satıcı


The Constantinople Years
The Constantinople Years

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