Mihrî Müşfik


Painter (B. 1886, Kadıköy / Istanbul – D. 1954, USA). The first Turkish women painter Mihrî Müşfik was born in Rasim Paşa Mansion in Kadıköy. She took her first cultural education from private teachers, coming to her house. Due to her family lifestyle, she took a European style of education and interested in literature, music and painting, all at the same time. Among these, her interest in painting overwhelmed others and she took lessons from Zonaro in his studio in Beşiktaş. She watched opera singers, musicians coming to Istanbul and wore low-cut clothes, which was found odd at that time, and showed her desire for European lifestyle with her every single behavior. Actually, she was a beautiful and cheerful daughter of her philanderer father. Like her father, she was prone to live her life full of joy and pleasure.

She ran away with an artist from the Italian origin to Rome to paint, with the romanticism resulting from youth. Then from there, she passed to Paris. She used the place that she rented on the 52nd Montparnasse Avenue, both as a house and studio. She tried to earn her life by making portraits and hiring one of her house's rooms. Mihrî Hanım became Mihrî Müşfik Hanım, after marrying one of her tenants, Müşfik Selami Bey, who was studying Political Science in Sorbonne at that time.

Minister of Finance, Cavit Bey, who had come to Paris as a part of his duty, sent a telegraph to Education Minister, asked for a support for Mihrî Hanım, with whom he met in a party in Paris. Upon this, Mihrî Müşfik was appointed to İstanbul Darülmuallimatı (Teacher's training school for girls) in 1913. She became a teacher of Sanayi-i Nefise (Academy of Fine Arts). After Salih Zeki, mathematician, she became the principal in this school. The first woman ruler of Sanayi-i Nefise, Mihrî Hanım, encouraged girls to paint outdoor, paint a model, and hold an exhibition for the first time. Mihrî Hanım was also a glamour lady. While she was living in Rome, one of her paintings was put in the Vatican Museum. During the time, she was in Istanbul; she became a friend of Tevfik Fikret.

While the poets of Edebiyat-ı Cedide (T.N. the new literature) were under the influence of French literature in the period of Westernization, Mihrî Müşfik Hanım painted what those poets had written, composing the "Painting of Edebiyat-ı Cedide." In his memories about Tevfik Fikret, Ruşen Eşref Ünaydın expressed the great poet's comments on Mihrî Hanım: "There is a lady, painting. She interprets "Rübab" so well that I began to wonder if my poem was that much meaningful." Also known to have portrayed Edebiyat-ı Cedide poets, Mihrî Hanım made a mould of Tevfik Fikret's face upon his death in 1915. Thus, she took serious steps in sculpture in as early as 1915.

Mihrî Müşfik Hanım went to Italy in 1919. It has been assumed that she rushed off  Istanbul due to her close relations with the members of the İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti (Committee of Union and Progress), and this put her in a difficult position at this invaded city. She visited Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın and Hüseyin Cavit, who were arrested at that time, which caused articles against her in the press. In this complicated time, she went to Italy for a year, and returned to teach for two years in Sanayi-i Nefise. She went to Italy again in late 1922. Her marriage to Müşfik Bey ended with divorce in 1923.

During her life in Rome with her tableaus when she was together with the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio, perhaps thanks to Danonçiyo, one of her paintings was put in the Museum of Vatican. She even portrayed the Pope later. This was the first time a woman ever portrayed the Pope. All of these were thanks to the friendship of the famous poet Danonçiyo.

Mihri Müşfik spent most of her time in Paris and Rome, painting to get by. Yet her extravagance caused her debts to exceed her income. She went through economic hardships. When her sister Enise Salih Hanım, famous for her beauty, who was recently divorced, died in the Bâle Sanatorium in Switzerland, and her niece Hale Asaf, whom she taught painting for the first time, died of cancer in 1938, Mihri Hanım wanted to spend the rest of her life in another world and went to the USA. She lived in New York, Boston, Washington and Chicago; employed as a professor of painting in universities for some time, and taught private painting lessons to rich American families. After she lost her power to work, she died in misery.

Aunt of the artist Hale Asaf, Mihri Müşfik went to America with a desire to live in another world after the deaths of her sister Enise Salih Hanım in a sanatorium in Switzerland following the divorced from her husband and also her niece Hale Asaf at an early age. She is said to have portrayed Rezzan Yalman, the wife of journalist Ahmet Emin Yalman, who was in the USA at that time, painted for the cover pages of the magazines published in New York during the World War II, and been seen by Ahmet Emin Yalman in New York in 1941-42, before she died there. She was buried in the New York Cemetery of the Nameless.



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