Farmanfarmaian, Monir Shahroudy 1924-

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Farmanfarmaian, Monir Shahroudy 1924-


Born 1924, in Qazvin, Persia (now Iran); married second husband, Abol Bashar Farmanfarmaian (a lawyer); children: (first marriage) one son; (second marriage) one child. Education: Attended Tehran University and Cornell University; Parsons School of Design, graduated, 1949.




Artist. Participated in national and international exhibitions, including the first Tehran Biennial, 1958, and Venice Biennale, 1958, 1964, 1966; has had solo exhibitions in Tehran, Iran, Europe, and the United States, including at the Iran American Society, 1973, 1976; the Italian Institute, 1966, 1968; Jacques Kaplan Gallery, New York, NY; the Kennedy Center, Washington DC, 1975; Gallerie Denise Rene, Paris, France and New York, NY, 1977; exhibited as part of various group shows, including "The Heritage of Islam," New York, NY, 1982-84; Bernice Steinbaum Gallery touring exhibition, 1985-86; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 1986-87.


Gold Medal, Venice Biennale, 1958.


(With Zara Houshmand) A Mirror Garden (memoir), Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.


Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian was born 1924, in what was then Persia but is now Iran. As a child she had a tendency toward mischief and adventure, behaving as something of a tomboy. She frequently got into trouble or came home all scraped up. This tendency turned into a reluctance to embrace tradition and a certain defiance as she grew older. She studied art at Tehran University, and then at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. At the time it was far more traditional to pursue studies in Europe, but World War II made that difficult and dangerous, so she traveled to the United States instead. After Cornell, she went on to study at the Parsons School of Design. She met a wide circle of people during her travels, including artists such as Andy Warhol. She also met and married a young man who was considered a suitable match, but in reality the marriage was a disaster. After a divorce, she was a single mother with a small son. She ultimately met and married the man who would be her long-time love, Abol Bashar Farmanfarmaian, who descended from Iranian royalty. Together they returned to Iran, where they settled down, and Farmanfarmaian began to collect the Iranian art that she loved. She amassed an impressive collection, but most of it was lost during the political upheaval following the fall of the Shah. In addition, she continued to produce and exhibit her own work, not only in Iran but also in Europe and the United States.

In A Mirror Garden, written with Zara Houshmand, Farmanfarmaian offers readers her memories of her life from her childhood all the way to her eighties. It includes early recollections of life in Persia at a very different time in its political history, and the adventure of traveling by boat to the United States. She also describes Iran as it was when she returned over a decade later, and how her husband's family connections garnered her access to a number of social circles. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews had a mixed impression of the memoir, stating that "the personal reminiscences can be wearying, but Farmanfarmaian's portrait of life in Iran, past and present, is worthwhile." Donna Seaman remarked in Booklist that "Farmanfarmaian's story of the evolution of an artist's aesthetic amid terrible upheaval is fresh and unexpected." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly concluded that the book "nicely captures a bygone epoch in a very likable voice."



Farmanfarmaian, Monir Shahroudy, and Zara Houshmand, A Mirror Garden (memoir), Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.


Booklist, May 1, 2007, Donna Seaman, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 66.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2007, review of A Mirror Garden.

Library Journal, July 1, 2007, Robert Kelly, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 88; August 1, 2007, Robert Kelly, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 87.

New Yorker, July 9, 2007, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 93.

Publishers Weekly, April 30, 2007, review of A Mirror Garden, p. 150.

Vogue, May, 2007, "Reflections of Glory," p. 180.


Gulf News, (November 2, 2007), Vinita Bharadwai, "Abstract at the Glass Roots.", (April 2, 2004), Fathali Ghahremani, "Luminous Gratitude."

San Francisco Chronicle Online, (June 24, 2007), June Sawyers, "Iranian Blossoms in New York Art Scene."

Taunton Daily Gazette Online, (December 6, 2007), Margaret Smith, review of A Mirror Garden.

Time Out Dubai Online, (October 31, 2007), Arsalan Mohammad, "Monir Talks."

Time Out New York Online, (June 20, 2007), Ben Loehnen, review of A Mirror Garden.