L'Atelier de l'Europe

Discovering the Council of Europe’s art collection

This podcast gives you a chance to discover the Council of Europe through its art collection. You will learn how the Council of Europe, which was founded just after the Second World War, has traversed the ages and fashioned the Europe of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

From the Palais de l’Europe, the Council of Europe’s headquarters designed by the architect, Henry Bernard, past the bust of Winston Churchill, a section of the Berlin Wall and some more contemporary works, l’Atelier de l’Europe leads you through the secrets behind the most emblematic items in a collection of some 150 works made up of paintings, tapestries and sculptures.

In a unique dialogue, the podcast combines the accounts of artists and historians with testimonies of diplomats and political leaders and all those who have shaped the history of the Council of Europe..

12 episodes

Back Strength in unity – Fish and shark (in French)

Known as the Picasso of caricature, Turhan Selçuk led the way in wordless drawing from the 1940s. This work highlights the power of democracy. It demonstrates the idea that no one is above the law and we only need to think together, regardless of skin colour or opinion, to unite against any threats.

Fish and shark by Turhan Selçuk


124 x 198 cm

Donated by Türkiye in 1996


With (in order of appearance):

Aslı Selçuk, university academic, film critic and daughter of Turhan Selçuk

Didier Pasamonik, journalist, publisher and comic strip historian

Authors: Charlotte Roux, Antoine Auger, Anne Kropotkine

To find out more:

Didier Pasamonik, “Bande dessinée et humour satirique en Turquie”, article published in Fluide glacial No. 492, 4 April 2017

Turhan Selçuk, Siyasetin Göbeği, Desen, 2021 (in Turkish)

Turhan Selçuk, Insan Denen Garip Hayvan, Desen, 2021 (in Turkish)



Opening titles: L’Atelier de l'Europe, discovering the Council of Europe’s art collection.

Fish and shark by Turhan Selçuk. Painting, donated by Türkiye in 1996, with Aslı Selçuk and Didier Pasamonik.

Aslı Selçuk: The shark is big, black and powerful. An extremely ferocious carnivore. The little fish have gathered together to form a big fish, and more and more are flooding in to join them. And their numbers continue to swell.

Didier Pasamonik: Against a blue background, we can see a black and white shark and then a larger fish, representing democracy, with little dark spots and a goldfish for its eye, which is swallowing up the shark.

Aslı Selçuk: And the shark’s eye is looking back. It’s the shark that’s trying to get away now, and the little fish are in pursuit.

Didier Pasamonik: The shark is a symbol. Perhaps of military dictatorship, for example.

Aslı Selçuk: It could be of a totalitarian regime. Or of a monarchy or oligarchy.

Didier Pasamonik: It could also be a multinational that sets up shop and destroys everything, without a care for the country’s people.

Aslı Selçuk: The little fish are the people, the ordinary people, who represent all the different parts of the united whole. In other words, the women, the men, the old, the young, the children and the different peoples who lived in Turkey – the Greeks, the Armenians, the Jews and the French too.

Didier Pasamonik: If there’s one country where nuance is important, it’s in Turkey, with the nuances between the different people who live there. I think Selçuk takes into account the position of Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, at an international crossroads where all cultures meet.

Aslı Selçuk: The fish is made from such diversity, looking towards the country’s future, their children’s future and the world’s future, it represents solidarity.

Didier Pasamonik: And in essence, this portrayal of diversity is a call to unite the different peoples of Turkey behind a project which aims to eradicate all the forces working against democracy.

Aslı Selçuk: I see a parallel between this caricature and the values of the French Revolution: equality, fraternity and solidarity against the monarchy, against the king. And of course I can draw a parallel with Turkey as well because we had a great war of independence and Mustafa Kemal won with very few soldiers. The little fish are like the Turkish people who were very poor but didn’t lose hope.

Didier Pasamonik: The message of this painting is that we shouldn’t be afraid. If we’re on our own, the shark can gobble us up, but together we can wipe it out.

Aslı Selçuk: My name is Aslı Selçuk. I’m Turhan Selçuk’s daughter, and my father’s greatest admirer.

Didier Pasamonik: Turhan Selçuk is the Turkish equivalent of Hergé, or the Turkish Walt Disney, you could almost say. He was a cartoonist inspired by American cartoons and in particular the New Yorker magazine: Saul Steinberg had a major influence on his drawing style. Selçuk also wrote comic books, mainly in the 1960s. He created a character called Abdülcanbaz, but prior to that he had played a very important role as a publisher. It’s a little-known fact that he was the first person to bring characters like Tintin and Spirou into print in Turkey.

Aslı Selçuk: Turhan Selçuk made this cartoon in 1957. He would draw it again and again over several years. There are different versions of it. The first was in black and white. The shark was bigger and the small fish were round. Turhan would begin by sketching the cartoon in black pencil. Then he worked in Indian ink.

Didier Pasamonik: The work given to the Council of Europe is typical of Selçuk’s style because the meaning immediately jumps out at you. It’s very much in the cartoon tradition. Cartoons portray an idea through a drawing. They send shockwaves through their content and their style. That tactic was directly inspired by the New Yorker cartoonists. Although in actual fact, caricature has played a very important role in Turkey since the 19th century, and especially since the advent of Kemalism and Kemal Atatürk.

Aslı Selçuk: Turhan Selçuk grew up under the new Republic, with a great love for Mustafa Kemal.

Didier Pasamonik: He was born in 1922, right when Kemalism was beginning. He was exposed to this violent culture of modernisation in his youth, with reforms being pushed through in the 1920s and 30s. And so I think he fully identifies with this Kemalist and modernist identity, which is outward-looking and secular. He drew this picture for an exhibition on human rights.

Aslı Selçuk: The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked Turhan if he would take part in an exhibition on human rights. As he had already done many cartoons on this theme, they were collected for the exhibition and afterwards, the Council of Europe. My father’s cartoon, Fish and Shark, was chosen.

Didier Pasamonik: We can clearly see the Council of Europe’s issues, but also those of Turks, like Turhan Selçuk, who want to move towards the democratisation of their country, to ensure greater equality. And I think that his painting does show that democracy is the key precondition for the existence of human rights.

Closing credits: That was Fish and Shark by Turhan Selçuk, a Council of Europe podcast, created by Charlotte Roux, Antoine Auger and Anne Kropotkine, with Aslı Selçuk and Didier Pasamonik. Other episodes are available on the Council of Europe website.

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7 min 50 27 may 2024
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