Elderoglu’s work is often described as abstract script painting, although he long denied the influence of calligraphy. His thin, unbroken black lines—which resemble scrawls accentuated with color—evoke letters from a hermetic alphabet. In Mask he combined these with a delicate background resembling the marbled pages of Ottoman manuscripts. Both Mask and Six Lines of Abstracted Calligraphy (G1975.240) date from Elderoglu’s mature period, when he represented Turkey in various international exhibitions where he received honors and awards, including the Seventh Bienal de São Paulo, in 1963, and the last Tehran Biennial, in 1966. Since Elderoglu often left his works from this period untitled, it is possible that Mrs. Grey supplied the titles for both these works.
Elderoglu came from a modest background. Born in the southwestern town of Denizli, he taught painting classes at the middle- and high-school level. As part of his teacher training, he was sent to Paris, where for two years he attended classes at the Académie Julian and with André Lhote. After his retirement from teaching, Elderoglu began to paint in earnest, quickly formulating his signature abstract vocabulary. As early as the late 1940s, he was referencing music to justify abstraction in modern painting—at a time when Turkish viewers were still struggling to come to terms with it.