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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Abidin Dino

Happiness, (no date available) Abidin Dino. The title in print reads "Home Sweet Home." The Turkish title is Mutluluğun Resmi (Official Happiness).
Abidin Dino Self-portrait, 1957
The other day I came upon the painting Happiness (above) by Abidin Dino, a Turkish artist born in 1913 who died in 1993 at the age of eighty. I liked the painting. It made me laugh.  It made me happy. Sometimes it's translated from Turkish to be Official Happiness. Apparently other artists have had much the same reaction as I. In researching both the painting and the artist I came to realize that Dino had been plagiarized (in art they tend to use the word "copied" but it's the same thing) by at least one, perhaps as many as two or three other artists. Strangely, the deeper I dug into the matter, it began to dawn on me that Dino, himself, may have actually added his own signature to the work of another artist in this case.
Hand, 1950, Abidin Dino
There's no doubt that Abidin Dino was an outstanding Turkish artist, though he spent a good part of his life hobnobbing with the likes of Picasso, Max Ernst, Gertrude Stein, and Tristan Tzara in Paris when he was not particularly welcome in his homeland. The problem is, in comparing Happiness with the bulk of Dino's other work is that, simply stated, it doesn't fit. Virtually nothing Dino did during his entire lifetime bears the slightest resemblance to the painting in question. Dino was an Expressionist, his work varying from highly expressive line drawings such as Hand (left) from 1950, to his nearly abstract self-portrait (above, right). His tondo painting, Tribute to Ingres, (below) from 1980 gives you some idea of his painting style. Most of his work is, in fact, much more abstract. Notice these works all have dates assigned, as do most of Dino's other art. Happiness, at least insofar as I've been able to ascertain, does not.

Tribute to Ingres, 1980, Abidin Dino
Happiness does come with a story, however. According to several Turkish accounts I've been able to find (my Turkish is not too good, and neither is that of Bing or Google) Abidin Dino was challenged by the Turkish poet, Nâzım Hikmet Ran, to paint a picture of happiness. There was some Turkish poetry involved which made little sense in translation, but apparently the painting Happiness (top) was the result. There is no time or place attached to this story but inasmuch as Dino also worked at times as a cartoonist, his style might have been broad enough to encompass such a depiction.

Home Sweet Home, (no date available), Dianne Dengel
Muddying the water somewhat, the American artist, Dianne Dengel (1939-2012), painted a copy of Dino's Happiness, though some claim it was the other way around. In all fairness, Home Sweet Home is consistent with Dianne's style and all her other work. Dengel's website makes no mention of Abidin Dino. Inasmuch as Dianne Dengel was some 26 years younger than Dino and her website mentions her having been influenced by magazine covers dating from the 1940s, I find it unlikely Dino ever knew of her work but quite possible for the reverse to have been true. Moreover, at least one other version of the scene came to my attention (below), an obvious (and inferior) copy, though it's unclear whether this one copies Dengel or Dino.

Faking Happiness by an unknown artist. The website at the top right corner of the
painting is a Turkish satire/humor site with no obvious reference to Happiness.
Perhaps the most intriguing element of all this "happiness" is the fact that the Dino painting (top) appears to have two signatures. The one, at the bottom, is obviously that of Abidin Dino and matches his signature on other works. The second, is located on the side of the mattress at the foot of the bed. I've done some image sharpening of this signature (below, left) and it doesn't seem to match that of Dino or Dengel.

One painting, two signatures.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The picture named happiness does not belong to Abidin dino.Actually it belongs to Dianne Dengel. This is a widely believed wrong information. Please search it and correct this mistake.

  3. "I did a great deal of research on this article simply because there were two painters using basically the same image. The painting you question very plainly bears the signature of Abidin Dino. As I noted at the bottom of the article, there does seem to be a second signature on the mattress, but it does not appear to be that of Dianne Dengel. Your reference to "widely believed" raises the question of "by whom?" I'll stand by the original attribution.