Houshang Pezeshknia is an Iranian painter and filmmaker, and one of the pioneers of Iranian modern art. Many consider him a pioneer in the importation of modernist art in Iran. Pezeshknia was the first painter of the first generation of modernists to become acquainted with modernist currents more directly by studying art abroad. As a teenager studied at the "Nezam school" in 1932 and became interested in painting through friendship with two students of Kamal-ol-Molk. After graduating in history and geography, in 1942 at the age of 25 he left for Turkey. After studying painting and art history and getting acquainted with different styles of modernism with a French professor named Leopold Levy, at the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts he returned to Tehran and joined the circle of Pioneers of Iranian Modern Art.
After the experience of holding his first exhibition with Hossein Taherzadeh Behzad at the Iranian ambassador in Istanbul in 1944, he held the first solo exhibition at the Iranian-British Cultural Relations Association in Tehran. Collaboration with "Apadana, the home of fine arts" –the first private gallery in Iran – provided Pezeshknia a good opportunity for the success and reputation in the cultural and artistic community of that time. Apadana Gallery devoted its second official exhibition in December 1949 to Pezeshknia's artworks. It was at this exhibition that intellectuals such as Jalal al-Ahmad praised his paintings. Pezeshknia’s works along with the works of Kazemi, Esfandiari, Ziapour, etc. were displayed at the third program of Apadana Gallery in December of the same year.
In his professional life, Pezeshknia had various experiences that make it difficult to classify his works in a single style. Some of the modern styles such as Expressionism, Cubism, Impressionism and the so-called "open composition" that were popular among Iranian modernists in those decades can be found in his works. Although he himself did not consolidate these scattered experiences and did not bring clear results, some of his experiences opened up new horizons for other Iranian painters. Generally the painters of this generation tried to use the potentials of Iranian art to achieve a new and indigenous expression. Similarly, Pezeshknia made significant efforts in this direction. Parviz Kalantari mentions Pezeshknia as the initiator of calligraphy in Iranian art. According to him, Pezeshknia was the first painter to pay attention to the calligraphy aesthetics and to test its capabilities in the form of modernist painting. For example in 1948 he drew a young woman's upper body and encircled it among Kufic script lines.
In 1948, Pezeshknia, like many of his contemporaries, was employed by the oil company and moved to Abadan to earn a living which was a journey as a turning point in his personal and artistic life. He met Ebrahim Golestan there and since then a long-standing and close friendship developed between them. His ten-year stay in Abadan provided an opportunity to create his most brilliant works. Not only are Pezeshknia’s Ethnographies in this period of the oil workers, villagers and nomads among the most important works of his personal career but the history of Iranian art. He is not the only one who portrays the people of Iran and their cultural backgrounds. Ziapour and other artists have repeatedly depicted such subjects. but what distinguishes Pezeshknia from his peers is his sensitivity and social commitment towards these topics. While he considered the hardships and sufferings of ordinary and poor people, other novices, on the other hand, often approached these topics from an aesthetic and fascinated viewpoint.
The more or less expressive style of the Pezeshknia during this period of his career was deeply in coordination with his social sensitivity. Therefore, he was the first Iranian modernist painter to combine social commitment with new Fermi experiences. Pezeshknia's ethnographies were a response to the criticism of his contemporary realist painters, who, following Soviet socialist realism, accused modernist tendencies of lack of social and political commitment.
After holding several sporadic exhibitions in Abadan art circles, Pezeshknia exhibited his latest works in London and Paris during one of his last successful professional activities on a trip to Europe in 1960. Two years later, his activities came to an end with the sudden death of his brother and the escalation of a side-effect mental crisi,. The rest of Houshang Pezeshkhania's life was spent in isolation and despair until he died of a heart attack in Tehran in 1972.
Pezeshknia's first appearance at the auctions dates back to November 2008 at Christie's auction house. Until 2021, his works have been present in 17 domestic and foreign auctions, and 77% of his works have been sold in international auctions. His most expensive work until 2021 was hammered at the Bonhams Auction House for $ 81,600 on December 25, 2008.