Design for Mosaic I, 1965
Recognized as the first modern ceramicist in Turkey, Füreya (who is known by her first name) was a trailblazer. Beginning her career as an artist at the age of 40, she made it her mission to transform the inheritance of çini, the 16th-century Ottoman decorative ceramic-tile tradition, into a public-oriented, modernist practice for synthesizing art and architecture. Designs for Mosaic, I, and II (G1975.308), may be studies for two walls at the Hacettepe University School of Dentistry in Ankara that feature pierced, free-floating panels—or perhaps for miniature versions of the same work, some of which are now in private collections.
Born into an illustrious family of artistically inclined Ottoman aristocrats—including her grandfather Sakir Pasa, her uncle Cevat Şakir Kabaagaçli, and her aunts Fahrelnissa Zeid and Aliye Berger—Koral initially trained as a concert violinist. Never having received a formal arts education, she took up drawing and painting after being treated for tuberculosis in Switzerland. Wanting to set herself apart from her aunts, she took up ceramics, learning techniques of firing, glazing, and using different clays and paints in Lausanne and Paris. In 1951, for her first exhibition in Paris, she made small ceramic reliefs with references to traditional Ottoman arts and crafts. Moving to Istanbul soon after, she joined the circle of artists around Galeri Maya, who created both art and household objects infused with modernized local references.
A strong believer in public art, Koral integrated ceramics back into architecture—insisting that the concrete in modern buildings provided excellent support. She often collaborated with architects, engaging in lyrical abstractions influenced by Ottoman çini and its palette of cobalt blues, sage greens, and light purples. Keenly interested in experimentation, she achieved varied textures and light effects through chiseling, glazing, and broken glass. Later in life, Koral opened her atelier as a salon and workshop, inspiring generations of younger artists to take up ceramics.