“I am in love; the proof is my torn-apart heart, with nothing but this shredded evidence in my hand.”
Mahmoud Farshchian and Niadokht Ghavami grew up together as the children of close family friends. Nia’s father passed away when she was just sixteen years old. Fortunately, her mother owned a successful hairdressing salon by which she was able to support herself and her three children. Raised in such an environment, Nia cultivated a keen eye for beauty and at the age of nineteen started her own design school for young women.
As a teenager, Mahmoud did not keep his wish to marry Nia a secret. Appreciating Nia's passion for the arts, he would often spend hours gazing at her while she practiced the violin. Once, his brothers fooled him into believing that she was engaged to another man. Mahmoud’s shock led to a severe stomach flu, from which he only began to recover after learning the truth. Thankfully, Nia’s brothers were less mischievous, including one who would regularly abandon his role as chaperon so that the young couple could be alone on dates. On those occasions, Nia and Mahmoud frequented the cinema, played ping pong, and roller skated.
Despite his romantic overtures, Nia was still unsure of her feelings when Mahmoud departed for Europe to study art. Through their years apart, they communicated regularly through handwritten letters to one another. Nia increasingly found herself looking forward to receiving his heartfelt words and love poems, especially the cards he would send every Persian New Year from the faraway cities of Vienna and Paris, and when at last they reunited, Mahmoud possessed an air of worldly sophistication that swept her off her feet. When he returned to Iran, they married. She was seventeen; he was twenty-four years old.
“It’s not that easy living with a man of art….My wife is a very selfless woman. Her presence in my life is a true blessing.” -farshchian
Mahmoud spent the first five years of marriage sequestered in his studio, where he fused Western and Persian painting techniques into a unique style for which he coined the term Surnaturalism. During these years, Nia raised their two children, Yasmin Fatima (b. 1956) and Alimorad (b. 1962), while still teaching fashion design. A third child, Leila, was born thirteen years later in 1977.
Through Mahmoud's rise to become Director of the Department of National Arts at the University of Tehran, the Farshchians found themselves at the center of the city’s cultural life. Students included the daughter of the Shah and other members of the aristocracy. Diplomats, dignitaries, and intellectuals from all over the world visited the Farshchians’ home and gallery. Word of his art spread far and wide, and Mahmoud and Nia traveled to gallery and museum openings across Europe, Asia, and America.
The 1979 Iranian Revolution was a tumultuous time for the Farshchians, with many of their friends arrested or exiled. Farshchian’s painting of birds entitled “Quo Vadis/Where Are You Going?” describes the feeling they had as everyone around them was leaving.
In 1983, the Farshchians immigrated to America, traveling six months ahead before returning to Iran to gather their children and belongings to start a new life. The family settled in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City and its world-famous museums. As their daughter Leila recalls, “I used to wonder why we were always spending weekends at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now I appreciate.”
Following in the family tradition of the healing arts, their daughter Yasmin studied medicine at the University of Tehran. Sadly, she passed away at the age of 30, leaving behind two young children, Jennie and Masoud. Mourning the loss of their eldest child, Mahmoud and Nia received help from then-senator Joe Biden to adopt Jennie and Masoud from Germany, bring them to Englewood Cliffs, and raise them in the USA.
“I believe an artist’s children will either become much better than their father, or won’t reach his level at all. So I believe they should be free to choose.” -Farshchian
Today, Jennie is a lawyer, and Masoud an engineer. Their eldest son Alimorad is a medical doctor, author, humanitarian, and founder of The Center for Regenerative Medicine in Miami, Florida. A behavioral psychologist, their younger daughter Leila is the founder of Learners’ Compass and ABA Toolbox, an ABA agency/ software for autism treatment and behavior interventions for children with special needs. She is also involved in the family’s humanitarian pursuits of building schools for underprivileged children through Global School House.
In 2022, the Farshchians celebrated their sixty-fourth wedding anniversary. To their children and grandchildren, they epitomize the kindness, warmth, and generosity that come from true love.