Pierre Désiré Guillemet
Guillemet was born in Lyon, France. From 1844 to 1847, he studied fine arts at the École des Beaux-Arts de Lyon. After moving to Paris, he attended the studio of Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin, and participated in the Paris Salon Exhibitions between 1857-1863. He arrived in Istanbul at the end of December 1864, invited by Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876), and first took part in the production of the murals of the Dolmabahçe Palace. Sultan Abdülaziz, who sought to revive the art scene in the Ottoman Empire following his trip around Europe in 1867, appointed Guillemet as the new court painter and supported his desire to open an academy of fine arts in Pera. The full-length portrait Guillemet made in 1873, depicting the sultan standing on the balcony of the Çırağan Palace, was among the first examples of its kind at the Ottoman court. In 1874 he opened the Academy of Drawing and Painting in Pera with his wife and artist Hélène Guillemet, making it the first private art school in Istanbul. This academy was established as a semi-private school, rather than an ordinary studio, and taught painting through an established curriculum. Female students were also admitted to the school, where classes were held every day except Sundays, and which admitted male students on weekdays and female students on Saturdays. In 1877, Guillemet also began his efforts to open an official art school, supported by Sultan Abdülhamid II. Guillemet himself would have been the director and art teacher at the school, named the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. Though enrollment in the school had begun, the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War and Guillemet’s death in 1878 prevented it from opening. Guillemet continued in his role as court painter for the rest of his life.
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