the Artist


Ostad استاد (ōstâd) [Old Persian] noun
1. a master or expert;
2. a skilled craftsman or artist;
3. an extraordinarily capable professor


Nature, beauty, & family

Isfahan, Iran 1930
Born in Isfahan in 1930, Mahmoud Farshchian grew up in the proximity of Isfahan’s royal mosque, where the architectural masterpieces of the Safavid dynasty informed his understanding of art and beauty. No place in the world could have provided a better ambiance for the education of a traditional Persian artist. As a child, it was already clear that his life would be devoted to painting.
Ahmadabad & The Chicken House
Farshchian's natural genius was nourished by his family’s deep appreciation for art in all its forms. Farshchian's family home in the Ahmadabad neighborhood of Isfahan included trees, water fountains, pools, and a section called the Chicken House. His childhood memories of playing with the hens, roosters, pigeons, and sparrows are evident in his masterful depiction of their colors, feathers, and movements.
Beyond their physical appearance, Farshchian paid keen attention to their different moods and personalities. “There was this particular white rooster that was so friendly with me,” he remembers. “I carried food for him in my pocket, and he would push his head into my pocket and eat them.”
"When a drop of light falls into the glass of a human soul, what would it create with love?"
Home & Family
Farshchian’s father Gholamreza was a successful Persian carpet dealer, and the home was furnished with antiques, Cretonne curtains, and many carpets woven by the masters Archang (Ahmad Hartamni) and Mirza. Father would sit, arms crossed, watching in silence for hours as his young son drew the carpets’ lines and patterns. He would just look at me from the corner of his eyes. It was then that I realized the effects of my passion for art in my life.
Farshchian’s parents shared a genuine love of God and religion. His mother Zahra would take her children to the Imamzadeh Ismael shrine near their house, where Farshchian would make pencil copies of the shrine’s many paintings of events of Karbala and Ashura. The shrine had a plane tree that was burnt from inside, an image that appears in many of Farshchian’s paintings. A pilgrimage to Karbala in the 1940s affected Farshchian deeply, as revealed in his designs for the new tomb of Imam Hussein decades later.
“I get my art-loving spirit from my father. Although he was a businessman and trader, he admired art....That’s how I developed my passion for art.”
Six Months of Darkness
At the age of five, Farshchian fell into the courtyard pool and almost drowned. Zahra saved his life by reaching in and pulling him out by his hair. His swirling, circular compositions reflect this harrowing near-death experience.
“I have had a brush with death and struck by the evil eye several times in my life.”
Gholamreza and Zahra were avid readers, and together they amassed a library containing hundreds of rare books and manuscripts. Every Friday, family and friends gathered in the family home to recite The Book of Kings, Saadi, poems, and literary maxims. Once when Farshchian was six years old, he fell and hit his head running upstairs to fetch a Book of Kings from his mother’s reading shelf for his father and their guests. The accident left the young boy completely blind for six months. When the bandages came off, Farshchian experienced a psychedelic rush of colors. His vibrant, rainbow palette reflects his joy upon recovering his sight.


A Young Artist

Farshchian studied with the greatest masters of Persian art and literature in Isfahan. At Golbahar, the prestigious public school he attended, his teachers praised Farshchian’s artistry and encouraged him to study with Haj Mirza Agha Emami, an artist, carpet designer, and giant of Iranian Modernism. Farschian so impressed Haj Mirza with his talent, passion, and humility that he agreed to train the young student.
Haj Mirza
Haj Mirza taught Farshchian how to draw a gazelle. “When I got home, I was so excited,” Farshchian recalls. “I stayed up all night and drew about 200 gazelles: big ones, little ones....I felt like something was changing within me.” The next day, he took his portfolio to show the gazelles to Haj Mirza, who could not believe his eyes. He asked if Farshchian had drawn them all by himself or if he had traced them. “No, sir, I’d never do that. I just drew them,” Farshchian answered. Haj Mirza instructed Farshchian to draw a gazelle in his presence. After finishing quickly, Haj Mirza kissed him on the forehead and said, “You’ll become great! Work hard.”

Farshchian became Haj Mirza’s apprentice and continued to draw in pencil for four more years, mostly emulating Timurid and Safavid drawings. Then Farshchian began to study painting. Eventually, the precocious boy was helping carry out the studio's commissions. The gazelle still holds a special place in Farshchian’s heart and appears throughout his body of work.
"I always got a perfect score, 20/20, in drawing, composition, literature, and other abstract lessons. Unfortunately, I was so untalented when it came to math."
School of Fine Arts, Isfahan
Farshchian next attended the School of Fine Arts in Isfahan, where he kept the following sentence framed above his desk: “I should become a genius.” He studied miniature painting, drawing inspiration from the designs and tile patterns of Isfahan’s architectural monuments. Farshchian mastered the intricacies of pigments, binding mediums, and prepared his own brushes from white kitten hairs tied into bird quills tools so fine and flexible that he still uses them for delicate passages. Farshchian learned carpet design from the late master Issa Bahadori, who taught “with passion and love.” Farschian’ s artworks were gifted to every celebrity or diplomat who visited Iran.
Farschian also passionately studied literature, especially the poetry of Hafiz, Saadi, and Rumi. He and his friends would often attend poetry recitals at the Kamal Ismael Society, the Khakshir Society near the Jame’a Mosque, and the Poets Society behind the Chaharbagh School. 

The Early Years




Around the World

First Solo Exhibition, 1948
Upon graduation from the School of Fine Arts, Farshchian held his first solo exhibition in 1948 at the Iranian-British Cultural Association’s office in Isfahan.
The Army
Like all Iranian boys, he was conscripted into the army at the age of eighteen. In awe of his artistic talent, his comrades and superiors allowed him to skip the drills so he could keep drawing and painting.
Vienna, Munich, & Paris
After performing his military service, Farshcian’s hyperpolyglot nature took him on a Grand Tour to absorb Western painting techniques. He enrolled at the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna, taking several trips to cities like Munich and Paris. Wherever he went, he would spend all his time at the museum.
"I was so passionate and thirsty....Every morning I would wait outside museums with my papers and pencils, and I’d go inside when they opened the doors, and I kept drawing and drawing....I continued working ‘till late in the afternoon when they wanted to close the doors."

The Years In Between




Ostad Farshchian

The National Institute of Fine Arts, 1961
In 1961 at the age of thirty, Farshchian returned from his European tour to teach at The National Institute of Fine Arts (later The Ministry of Art and Culture).
The Department of National Arts
He organized exhibitions at the University of Tehran, where he rose to the position of Director of the Department of National Arts. He also designed carpets and worked so successfully in Syria that one of his vases was presented to Arthur Pope, the famous American scholar of Iranian art.
Istanbul, 1960: first international exhibit
Returning from one of his trips to Europe, Farshchian held exhibitions in the Chechen Sotoun Palace Museum in Isfahan, the Golestan Palace Museum, the Ministry of Art and Culture, University of Tehran, and the Museum of Ancient Iran. Farshchian’s first international exhibition was in 1960 in Istanbul, a watershed moment that sparked multiple exhibitions across the globe. His first exhibitions in the USA were in 1972 and 1973. 

Hopes & Fears




A Husband & Father

Istanbul, 1960: first international exhibit
Returning from one of his trips to Europe, Farshchian held exhibitions in the Chechen Sotoun Palace Museum in Isfahan, the Golestan Palace Museum, the Ministry of Art and Culture, University of Tehran, and the Museum of Ancient Iran. Farshchian’s first international exhibition was in 1960 in Istanbul, a watershed moment that sparked multiple exhibitions across the globe. His first exhibitions in the USA were in 1972 and 1973. 
Marriage, 1954
Friends since childhood, Mahmoud and Nia married when she was seventeen and he was twenty-four years old and welcomed two, later to become three, children. The first five years of their marriage were monumental for Farshchian’s career, as during this time she encouraged him to pursue his passion in the studio while she tended to the children, leading to his development and refinement of Surrnaturalism, the unique style for which he would be known.

In 2022, the Farshchians celebrated their sixty-fourth wedding anniversary.
Farshchian drew upon his love for Nia as a constant inspiration for his work, and many of his paintings depict beautiful women in paradisiacal settings.
"I mostly draw women as angels in my work. Kind, compassionate women are indeed like angels. They are precious."
The Iranian Revolution, 1979
The 1979 Iranian Revolution and tumultuous years after became a turning point for Farshchian and his family. With many friends arrested, exiled, and fleeing the country, Farshchian made the decision to leave Iran with his wife and children and began to seek out a new home.

His painting entitled “Quo Vadis/Where Are You Going?” describes the feeling that he, and 20 million other Iranians, had as friends disappeared and communities disintegrated during the revolution that would topple the last shah.


A Modern Master

America, 1983
Farshchian retired from teaching in 1980 and relocated to America with his family in 1983, settling in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City. There they raised their children and grandchildren and Farshchian continued to paint and take on projects in the U.S.A. and internationally.
Honors & Awards
He is included in Cambridge University’s list of the 2000 outstanding intellectuals of the 21st century and The European Academy of Culture’s Who’s Who in the 21st Century. Farshchian belongs to the Art and Professions Association of Italy and has received numerous awards and honorary memberships from universities and art centers across Europe and the USA.
International Acclaim
Farschian’s paintings are in the private collections of H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II of England and Prince Philip, Queen Juliana of Netherlands, Prince Agha Khan, Crown Prince Akihito of Japan, former presidents and prime ministers of the US, France, Italy, Brazil, and India, William Fulbright, Arthur A. Pope; and Michael Jackson, among others.

There have been six books and countless articles published on his work, as he comes to be recognized as playing a decisive role in introducing Iranian art to the international art scene as well as broadening the possibilities and scope of traditional Iranian painting.
The Farshchian Museum
In 2001, The Farshchian Museum opened to the public in Isfahan. His works are also permanently installed in Farshchian Hall at The Astan Ghods Razavi Museum and in the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Mashhad.
"Art is a sacred matter. It's a kind of worship. It's like serving God."
NFT Collection
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