Mihri Müşfik, a famous Turkish female painter, was born in Istanbul in 1886. She was the first contemporary female Turkish artist. Her father was a famous doctor, Dr. Çerkez Ahmet Rasim Pasha, known as “Tıbbiye Reisi” or “Tıbbiye Nazırı.” Mihri’s sister Enise Hanım was the mother of Hale Asaf, also a famous female painter. Mihri Hanım received a good education in the European style and learned music, painting, and literature. She learned painting from Fausto Zonaro at his workshop in Beşiktaş. At the age of seventeen, Mihri Hanım ran away to Rome to follow an Italian conductor. She then moved to Paris and started painting portraits and making gravures to earn a living. She met Müşfik Selami İnegöllü in Paris and married him. Mihri Hanım continued her studies in painting at several art schools in Italy and France.
In 1913, she returned to Istanbul and began teaching painting at the Darülmuallimat (School for Teachers Education). In the next year, she contributed to the establishment of the İnas Sanayi-Nefise Mektebi (the Art School for Women), where she became the first female director and taught painting. She trained many women to paint, such as Nazlı Ecevit, Aliye Berger and Fahrelnisa Zeid. While staying in Istanbul, Mihri Müşfik became friends with many renowned painters, including İbrahim Çallı, Hikmet Onat, Fikret Adil, and Namık İsmail as well as writers such as Ahmet Emin Yalman and Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın, and poets including Rıza Tevfik, Abdülhak Hamit and Gabriele d’Annunzio. Mihri Hanım’s painting illustrated works of poetry, written by a famous poets’ group, “Edebiyat-ı Cedide.” She also made a sculpture of Tevfik Fikret, a poet and publisher. This sculpture is currently kept at the Aşiyan Museum in Istanbul. After staying in Italy in during 1919-1920, Müşfik Hanım returned to Istanbul and taught painting at the İnas Snayi-i Nefise Mektebi. In 1922, she painted Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s portrait, the height of which was more than three meters. After completing the portrait, Müşfik Hanım dedicated it to Mustafa Kemal himself at the Çankaya Köşkü in Ankara. She then returned to Italy, where she painted many portraits including one of the Pope in the Vatican. After the death of her sister Enise Hanım in 1938, Müşfik Hanım moved to Paris where she continued painting. Her tableau “Çingene” (gipsy) was included in the collection of the Louvre Museum. After the death of her niece Hale Asaf in the same year, Müşfik Hanım moved to the United States and taught painting as a guest professor at several universities in New York, Washington DC, and Chicago. She held several national and international exhibitions. Mihri Müşfik passed away in New York in 1954. She was buried in the Hart Island in New York.
1928, a solo exhibition, George de Maziroff Gallery, New York
1918, a solo exhibition, Istanbul
1917, an exhibition at the İnas Sanayi-i Nefise Cemiyeti (Women´s Society of Arts).
Reference: Mahinur Tuna, İlk Türk Kadın Ressam Mihri Rasim (Müşfik) Açba. Istanbul: As Publications, 2007; istanbulkadinmuzesi.org, sanalmuze.org
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):