Hovsep Pushman 1877-1966

Hovsep Pushman was born in Armenia (the family name was originally Pushminian). At the age of eleven he held a scholarship at the Constantinople Academy of Art. By age seventeen his family of erudite oriental carpet dealers had immigrated to Chicago and the young artist was hired as a painting teacher. Around 1905 Pushman traveled to China where he spent several years immersing himself in oriental art and philosophy. He then went to Paris and studied under Lefebyre, Rober-Fluery and Dechenaud. By 1913 (at age 26) his paintings were accepted by the jury of the Paris Salon exhibitions and in 1914 he won his first bronze medal.

Pushman’s artistic identity as a great still life painter began to take shape in the early 1920’s. For the next forty years he devoted his immense talent to one subject - oriental mysticism. He carefully arranged precious objects he and his family had collected in delicately balanced compositions and painted them as if they were illuminated by candlelight.

In Chicago the young painter caused a sensation. He befriended Erwin Barrie who at the time was manager of the Art Gallery at Carson-Pirie-Scott department store. In turn Barrie was introduced to Walter L. Clark who was in the process of forming the largest art gallery in America. Clark had secured the top floor of New York’s Grand Central Station, enlisted the help of John Singer Sargent and impressionist Edmund Greacen to select the exhibiting artists and he was looking for a director of operations. Barrie was hired and he encouraged Hovsep Pushman to join the Grand Central Galleries roster of great painters. Pushman soon (1923) moved to New York and opened his studio in the Carnegie Hall Building. It was here that he created his remarkable series of still lifes that captivated audiences wherever they were shown.

At Grand Central Galleries Erwin Barrie maintained a separate velvet walled salon for the exclusive use of Pushman. The only illumination allowed on his paintings were specially designed reflector lights attached to the rear of his carefully selected antique frames. The “Pushman Room” is a legend in the American art world.

During the mid to late century a new generation of American still life painters was influenced by this Armenian born artist, Richard Goetz, David Leffel and Shari MacGraw among them.

This small boudoir scene was painted in France circa 1915. Exquisite harmonies of broken color are at play throughout the room. The beauty and temptation of forbidden fruit is symbolized by the young model gazing at a small Pushman still life of a silver tea service.

Additional note: For twenty five years after the artist’s death his two sons Armen and Arsin paid rent and preserved their father’s studio intact. Whether this was an effort to pay homage to their father or the result of the family’s reluctance to let go, all of Pushman’s antiques, idols, tapestries and paintings stayed in this quiet shrine until the remaining family heir died c.1990.