Mihri Müşfik Hanım

Who is Mihri Müşfik Hanım? (1886 Istanbul – 1954 New York)

She is the first female painter to initiate contemporary painting in Turkey. She became especially known for her portraits. She painted portraits of famous people. Among the people whose portraits he painted were Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Pope Benedict XV. There is also Benedictus. She became the first female director of İnas (Girls) Sanayi Nefise School, a Fine Arts Academy attended by female students, and contributed to the training of many female painters. Because of his passion for painting, he abandoned his aristocratic life and lived a bohemian and poor life. She is the aunt of the painter Hale Asaf.
In 1886, in Istanbul, to the Abkhaz-Georgian “Anchabadze” family, in the Bahariye district of Kadıköy, Dr. He was born in Rasimpaşa Mansion. His father was Dr., who taught at the Military Medical School and was also known as the “Minister of Medicine” or “Head of Medicine”. Circassian Ahmet Rasim Pasha. She received a European education. She was interested in literature, music and painting. His interest in painting outweighed others. A painting he made was presented to Sultan II. When he presented it to Abdulhamid, he became a student of the Palace Painter Zonaro and took painting lessons from him in his workshop in Beşiktaş. Thus, she became the first female painter to initiate contemporary painting studies in Turkey.

Journey to Europe

When she was seventeen, she ran away to Rome, following a music conductor of Italian origin whom she met at a music concert. After staying with acquaintances in Italy, where he went with a fake passport, he moved to Paris, which is considered the center of the art world.

She used the place she rented at 52 Montparnasse Boulevard as both a home and a workshop. He earned his living by painting mostly portraits and engravings, and by renting a room in his house. One of its tenants was Müşfik Selami Bey, who was studying political sciences at the Sorbonne under Selami Pasha of Bursa. Mihri Hanım, who married Müşfik Selami Bey (İnegöllü), thus took the name "Mihri Müşfik Hanım", known in the art world.
Ms. Mihri Müşfik, who studied at various art schools and workshops in Italy and France, made original portraits with an expressionist approach. He followed contemporary painting trends closely. The influence of cubism and expressionism was seen in his portraits. He created the portrait of Naile Hanım, which is considered his most important work, during this period, over a long period of time including the years 1908-09. The work depicts Naile Hanım, the mother of Ali Rıza Bey, one of the founders of the Committee of Union and Progress, former ambassador to Vienna, and one of the mayors of Istanbul.

Return to Istanbul

Mihri Hanım met Cavit Bey, the then Ottoman Minister of Finance, who was in Paris to make a debt agreement with France, at an invitation. When Cavit Bey sent a telegram to the Minister of Education and suggested that Mihri Hanım be used to establish a fine arts school for girls, Mihri Müşfik Hanım was appointed as an art teacher at Istanbul Darülmuallimat (Girls Teacher Training School) in 1913. This school was the highest educational institution attended by the daughters of the Muslim people. Here, she became a beloved teacher who influenced her students.
In 1914, İnas Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi was opened to allow female students to receive higher education and to evaluate their creativity in the field of fine arts. Mihri Müşfik Hanım, who met with Ahmet Şükrü Bey, the Minister of Education of the period, and asked for the establishment of Sanayi-Nefise School for female students, played a major role in the opening of the school.
Mihri Hanım became a teacher in the painting workshop of this institution, and after the mathematician Salih Zeki Bey, she became the principal of the school together with Ömer Adil Bey. Mihri Hanım, the first female manager of İnas Sanayi-i Nefise, encouraged girls to paint outdoors, work from models, and women painters to open a collective exhibition for the first time. She contributed to the training of many female painters. Some of these painters are Nazlı Ecevit, Aliye Berger and Fahrelnisa Zeid.
Literature-i Cedide scholars
During his time in Istanbul, he became friends with painters such as İbrahim Çallı, Hikmet Onat, Fikret Adil, Namık İsmail, as well as Tevfik Fikret. She created a "Cedide Literature Painting" by illustrating the writings of the Literature-ı Cedide poets.
Ruşen Eşref Ünaydın, in his memoirs about Tevfik Fikret, expresses the poet's comments about Mihri Hanım as follows:
There is a lady upstairs. She is making pictures. Also, he interprets "Rübab" so beautifully that I wonder if what I wrote is so meaningful.
In addition to illustrating poems, Mihri Müşfik Hanım drew portraits of the Cedide poets. After Tevfik Fikret's death in 1915, she took a mold of his face and made a statue of him. This is the first mask study done in Turkey. The mask is exhibited in the Aşiyan Museum.
Years of the War of Independence
He suddenly went to Italy in 1919. It is thought that the reason for his sudden departure was that his close relations with members of the Committee of Union and Progress put him in a difficult situation in occupied Istanbul. Mihri Hanım's visit to Hüseyin Cahit and Cavid Bey, who were arrested during this period, caused articles against her to appear in the press. During this period of turmoil, when he returned from Italy, where he went for a year, he taught at İnas Sanayi-i Nefise for two more years. Meanwhile, his marriage with Mihri Müşfik Bey, which did not work well due to bad habits and social turmoil, ended in divorce.
After the Greek army fell into the sea in 1922, Mihri Hanım painted a portrait of Mustafa Kemal, approximately 3 m high, depicting him standing in his marshal's uniform, and took it to the Çankaya Mansion and presented it to him. This is the first portrait of Atatürk made by a Turkish painter after the proclamation of the republic. This painting was later gifted to Yugoslavia in memory of the Yugoslav King Alexander II. It was lost as a result of the destruction of the Belgrade Palace during World War II, and was found in the 1990s.

Going to Europe again and the USA years
He went to Italy again towards the end of 1922. She survived for a long time by making portraits. She always chose famous people as her subject. During his time with the Italian Poet Gabriele d'Annunzio, he was accepted to the Vatican several times through him, and he painted a portrait of the Pope and also worked on the restoration of the frescoes of a church. For the first time, a Pope posed for a female artist from another religion in the Vatican. This painting remained in the Vatican Museum until the election of the new Pope.
Mihri Hanım, who moved to Paris after Italy, was happy with the acceptance of her painting "Gypsy" to the Louvre Museum during this period (a copy of the work is in the Istanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum), but after losing her sister Enise Salih Hanım and her niece Hale Asaf He didn't want to live in Paris. She chose to live in the USA because of the oppressive attitude towards her in her country. He landed in New York in November 1927 on the Carmania ship departing from the French port of Le Havre. For a while, he worked as a guest painting professor at universities in New York, Washington and Chicago and earned his living by giving private lessons to wealthy American families. According to the news of Cumhuriyet Newspaper dated December 26, 1928, she also held a personal exhibition at New York's Geroge de Maziroff Gallery. She married Salvatore Virzi in Manhattan on July 16, 1932, and became an American citizen in 1943. He spent his old age in poverty. She died in New York in 1954.

Mihri Müşfik Hanım and her niece Hale Asaf
Although Mihri Müşfik Hanım was Hale (Salih) Asaf's first art teacher, it is known that she advised him to give up painting and they became resentful in the following periods.
Mihri Hanım wanted Hale Asaf to give up painting, starting from the time she was in her twenties, and from time to time she asked, "I painted, but what happened?" "Art doesn't fill your stomach... Are you going to eat your paintings?" or "... I'm beautiful, I can take care of myself, you don't have that either, but keep painting!.." she is reported to have scolded her niece.
As reinforcement, Taha Toros publishes the following lines from a letter that Mihri Müşfik Hanım sent from abroad:
...What have I achieved by working for years? Nothing... Moreover, I lost my health. I was once a "Hercules". Now I can't climb the stairs... Art put me in this situation... Especially my eyes can't see at all. I wear double glasses. I'm broke. In a country like ours, which is underdeveloped compared to Europe, there is no path as difficult as the path of an artist. Ours is a profession that requires a lot of sacrifice.
If they gave me my youth as a gift today, I would refuse it out of fear of suffering what I suffered for this profession! Only I know the hardships I have endured, and only God knows...
...Every artist always sees the other artist as stupider than himself! He thinks that he can do in one year what he did in ten years. He is sure that in a year or two, he will save his life and turn the corner!
Alas, and again alas! Here lies the mystery of art. The artist's path gets longer as he walks...
...The only characteristic of our family is its stubbornness. As in everything else, I lived with stubbornness throughout my artistic life. Today, I regret this a thousand times.
These lines explain the situation Mihri Müşfik Hanım was in, as well as the circumstances under which she advised her nephew to leave the painting.

From the footnotes of the work titled "Our First Women Painters", written by Taha Toros and included in Turkish painting art publishing by Akbank, it is seen that the artist had 32 known works in Turkey, 36 in Italy, 23 in France and 60 in America, according to the research carried out until 1988. Around 150 of his works, including more than 100,000, have been recorded.
The artist used the signature Mihri Müşfik in her works during the period when she was married to her husband Müşfik Selami İnegöllü (1905-1922), and Mihri Rasim in other periods. There are no signatures on his considerable number of works.


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