Hikmet Onat was born in Istanbul, the son of the Naval Commander Murat Bey. He entered the Naval College in 1899, graduating with the rank of lieutenant in 1904. He went on to study at the Academy of Fine Arts under Salvatore Valeri and Joseph Warnia-Zarzecki. He took part in all the activities of the Society of Ottoman Painters, beginning with the early meetings for its establishment in 1908. After graduating in 1910, he passed the examination to study in Europe and continued his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. There, he attended the studio of Fernand Cormon. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he returned to Istanbul and taught art at several secondary schools, including the Imperial School (the Galatasaray High School). In 1915, he was appointed to the Academy of Fine Arts, first as a charcoal drawing instructor for the preparatory year, replacing his own teacher Warnia-Zarzecki, and then as the head of the drawing studio. He took part in the Galatasaray Exhibitions from their inception in 1916 onwards. He worked with İbrahim Çallı, Namık İsmail, Sami Yetik, Ali Sami Boyar and Ruhi Arel in the Şişli Studio, which was established in 1917, encouraging artists to paint war paintings. He continued to work as a studio instructor until his retirement in 1949. His first solo exhibition was held in Ankara in 1976, shortly before his death.
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