Nicolai Fechin's Art and Life in Taos:
Nicolai Fechin is the most internationally famous artist of the early Taos Art Colony. His work is highly sought by collectors worldwide, especially the United States, Russia, and China. Fechin felt at home in Taos. His art revealed the creative energy, beauty, unique identity, morality and dignity of the indigenous Peoples and the Earth itself.
The Importance of the Special Quality of Light in Taos:
His daughter Eya said "He loved the place (Taos). He had found an American 'home'. He said the Taos mountains reminded him of the beauty he had seen in Siberia. He painted with fervor." "New Mexico encouraged him to paint landscapes. Like all the Taos artists, he appreciated the light of Taos." -Eya Fechin
Fechin's only child - Eya
"Fortunate indeed is the collector or museum that has a painting done during this period of Fechin's continued growth."
- Northridge biography
Fechin's Drawing Technique in Taos, his unique methods of layering colors, his fading from realism to abstraction and back again, all reveal his deep appreciation of both the native Peoples and the life of our planet.
Fechin Taos Landscape - "Mountain in Winter"
Fechin, the Russian-American Artist, achieved the highest honors and recognition across two continents during his lifetime.
Later, his fame would continue to spread worldwide.
After creating several large historical master pieces in St.Petersburg,
in 1904 portraits became increasingly more important for him.
While he lived and worked in Taos, Fechin's palette changed, brightening with his appreciation and growing love.
"He felt particularly close to the Indians and his greatest American works were of Indians," Fechin's daughter, Eya
said. "He thought Pueblo Indians possessed the same spirit as well as other qualities of the Tartars of his homeland. He always painted his Indians as they were, never creating artificial scenes with nonauthentic props."
"Young Native American Boy" -Nicolai Fechin Indian Portrait
"Taos Pueblo" - Nicolai Fechin Landscape
Even though Fechin achieved world wide recognition for his portraits, his landscapes are transcendental as well.
"Cabin in the Woods" - Fechin landscape
“He would begin by looking at an empty canvas. He would look at it and say, ‘This is a beautiful space and the only job of the artist is to fill that space in with harmony and balance.’ - Eya Fechin
Eya, Fechin daughter, grew from, “being my mother's little girl... to my father's closest friend."
About the Nicolai Fechin House, Eya said, "The house is the masterpiece of the collection. It really has to be looked at that way.” Suffering terribly from his divorce, Fechin stopped building. The Fechin House in Taos, New Mexico is the only home he ever built. The Fechin House is open to the public.
Fechin House photo by Bill Johnson
One of the greatest influences on Fechin's life was his beautiful wife, Alexandra Belkovitch (1893 - 1983),
the daughter of the director of the Kazan School of Art. In his deep love, Nicolai named her "Tinka". She handled everything for Nicolai, freeing him to create his Art Works.
Nicolai would suffer tremendously from his divorce.
Alexandra Belkovich (from Forrest Fenn Archive)
Fechin's Charcoal Drawings:
Fechin painted with his charcoals (obtained from J. M. Paillard Co., Paris), sometimes holding them like a brush. And he spared no effort to obtain the highest quality handmade paper from China. Fechin's special paper was sometimes delivered by his friend Milan Rupert. Other times he purchased it from Chinese dealers. The qualities and uniqueness of each sheet of paper delighted Fechin. His masterworks could only have been created with this special paper. The paper's thinness imposed its own discipline, but the results are magnificent. These must be seen in person to be truly experienced. Fechin's charcoals were very thin, but he sharpened them even more, making them so thin he had to make special holders for them. But the precision, craftsmanship, realism and results are unequaled.
Charcoal Drawing by Nicolai Fechin
Parsons does not offer Nicolai Fechin reproductions or commercial copies of prints of Nicolai Fechin,
because no print can compare to the real Art Work.
Parsons invites you to visit the Galleries in person to see the unmatched beauty of the real Art.
Nicolai Fechin Quotes:
on his Technique, Art and Life, and Painting Secrets:
Fechin explains the source of lasting value in Art:
"A high degree of expertise in technique has always had, and always will have, a predominate place in art.
The subject, in itself, has value only according to the mode of the day. Tomorrow it will be superseded by a new fashion or fad. With the passing of time, the subject loses much of its meaning. But the fine execution of that subject retains its value.”
- Nicolai Fechin
Fechin demonstrates the diffence between technique and truth:
"Technique should be considered only as a means to an end but never as the end itself. To me, technique should be unlimited, fed by a constant growth in ability and understanding. It must never be mere virtuosity but an endless accumulation of qualities and wisdom." - Nicolai Fechin
"The appearance of a truly new idea in art is always valuable,
but only when it aims at fulfilling itself in an accomplished piece of work." - Nicolai Fechin
Fechin worked to encourage beginning artists:
"All creation is personal and belongs to you alone. The teacher must not touch this. His main reason for existence is to see that the work of the student is well thought out and constructively organized." - Nicolai Fechin
“No one can teach you how to paint and how to draw except you yourself. You cannot learn how to paint by watching a well-trained master painting, until you yourself, have learned how to paint with some understanding first. Only by the path of much practice and experience can mature results be reached.” - Nicolai Fechin
"The beginner is always tempted to take the path of least resistance .He usually takes as his model the reproductions of some fashionable painter and copies them, believing that by doing so he acquires knowledge. Such a beginning is unsound, because it starts with the end product of the original work- the finished results of an artist’s long and patient toil. Superficially absorbing the final expression, the student bypasses the process of attaining these results and does not comprehend at all the work of creating." - Nicolai Fechin
Fechin outlines his secrets to creating colors:
"Any standardization is negative in its meaning. If conventional shades and colors are used, the ability to see them in reality is lost. It is essential that the artist should regard every new painting as an entirely special world of color, light, form and line. Every new canvas is a completely new challenge" - Nicolai Fechin
"The beginner usually endeavors laboriously and literally to match colors he sees (or those he imagines) by mixing endlessly the paints on his palette, and the results are dirty and dead. Everything which is alive reflects color and every reflection is a vibration. Hence, if one wishes to produce this living vibration one must resort to the use of pure basic colors and “build” with them in such a manner as to give this living effect and vibrancy." -Nicolai Fechin
"For my own work, I do not like to use medium. This dissolves the paints too much. The pigments mix together and cannot retain their individual distinctiveness and thus again lose much of their fresh intensity." - Nicolai Fechin
Fechin talks about creativity:
“The more consummate his technique, the easier the artist will find it to free himself from all dependence upon a subject. What he uses to fill his canvas with is not so vital. What is vital is how he does it. It is sad if an artist becomes a slave to the object he seeks to portray. He must be able to deal with it according to his own point of view. In other words, the portrayed object must serve as nothing more than an excuse to fill his canvas. Only then does his work acquire value for an artist, when it passes through the filter of his creative idea. Therefore, a beginner must always avoid the conventional, whether it is color, line or, above all of course, in the choice of the subject itself. Only when the subject passes through the filter of his creative faculty does his work acquire value for an artist...” - Nicolai Fechin
Fechin explains some differences between novelty and Art:
“Artists and critics compete with each other in their endeavors to destroy the traditional approach to the fundamental principles required for the careful technical execution of any work. In their mad pursuit of novelty, they do not have enough time for a conscientious development of their ideas and, as a result, they have had to make legitimate that which I would call “illiteracy” in the arts." - Nicolai Fechin
“Concept or rendition: which is more important? That is a basic question in art. In the first case it is frequently said: “Not badly conceived but poorly executed!” Such evaluation is no credit to an artist. On the contrary, fine workmanship makes one forgive even triviality. In such cases it is said: “Stupid, but devilishly well executed!” - Nicolai Fechin
Fechin explains the training of a Master Artist:
"An artist should work every day with what is at hand" ". . . It is necessary to exercise the hand and the eye the same way it is necessary for a musician to exercise every day his hearing and his hands." (Fechin, The Builder, 1982) - Nicolai Fechin
Fechin reminds us of the powers of creativity:
"I have been asked which of the arts I consider most important. For me, no one particular art is greater than another. I can only say this; when you find yourself in the presence of creativeness…take off your hat." - Nicolai Fechin
Fechin the Prodigy
Fechin's fame has spread world wide to all coninents. He was a genius from youth, a child prodigy who never stopped growing. He achieved the highest recognition and art awards while he lived. For educational purposes, Parsons presents the NORTHRIDGE Biography of Nicolai Fechin © 1946:
"NICOLAI FECHIN is a quiet man, slight…a little below average height, whose physical bearing is distinguished by two very interesting characteristics. His eyes glow in there deep sockets with something of the brilliance one finds in his paintings… and his hands are sensitive and delicate.
Born in Russia in 1881… his life has been full of every kind of experience an artist could desire to give depth and richness to his color… to give sensitiveness and understanding to his drawing. Fechin has made the most of his heritage in art; today, "his eye is not dimmed, nor his natural force abated."
To those students who have had the rare privilege of studying with him… it is a never ceasing source of wonder that his criticism goes immediately to the inherent weakness in the painting or drawing before him… that he cannot be led astray by surface technique or tricks… that his praise is as slow in coming as it is sincere when merited.
When Nicolai was thirteen years old he embarked on his greatest adventure… his father enrolled him in Kazan's new Art Academy. For six long years he was grounded in the fundamentals of his art, his only release being summer vacations. These he spent drinking in the natural beauties of the country, riding deep into the dark forests, or mingling with the peasants in the primitive Tartar and Cheramis villages. At nineteen, eager and ambitious… his hope for the future was not denied for he won a scholarship to the great Imperial Art Academy in St. Petersburg. A sharp transition for an impressionable young man, but Fechin was not daunted by the terrifying magnificence of the capital of all the Russias. Seven more years were spent in serious study, winning honors as he progressed… yet he was not so much the esthete that he did not enjoy the traditional pleasures of student life. Then after completing his training with the Russian master Ilya Reptin, Fechin in his 29th year, won the Prix de Rome, a traveling scholarship as well as his official degree. Mark this well, you who study art for three years and feel that you are masters of your craft. Nicolai Fechin did not consider himself an artist or draughtsman until he had completed 14 years of rigorous training.
With the money from his award Fechin spent the next months in a leisurely trip through Austria, Italy France and Germany, his quick mind retaining the truly great art he saw… and discarding that which found no responsive chord in him. His paintings were exhibited widely, in Europe and the United States; he won many awards and much critical acclaim. His fame spread rapidly.
These were busy days for Nicolai Fechin and it was during this time that he married Alexandra Belkovitch, daughter of the founder of the Kazan Academy. Soon a little daughter, Eya, was born.
Tumultuous years followed, not from any desire on the artists part… rather the whole world was torn apart by the cataclysm of World War 1 and its consequent unrest. Somehow, Nicolai Fechin fought through and emerged, mature, assured, and very much in need of a place to work quietly and without disturbance.
For many years friends in the United States,particularly Mr. and Mrs. William Stimmel of Pittsburgh, tried to bring the Fechins to America… and finally they were successful in their efforts. The Stimmels, by the way, should be given credit for introducing Fechin's art to America for they were the first to acquire and exhibit his paintings.
His first exhibits in America were in New York and in Chiago at the Art Institute in 1925. Since then he has been invited to and has shown in all American Exhibitions of any consequence.
To list all of Fechin's medals and awards, would take too much space in this brief biography. Suffice it to say that the coveted Thomas Proctor Prize for the best portrait at the National Academy of Design, awards at the Philadelphia Centennial and the World's Fair in San Francisco are typical. Fechin today is not as prone as he used to be to send paintings to exhibits; perhaps this is due to the steady sale of his paintings and drawings to an appreciative and increasing list of men and women, who not only like the things he does but want to own them as well.
In 1927 Fechin moved west. For several years he lived at Taos, New Mexico, and it was here amid the grandeur of of mountain and desert that some of his greatest works emerged. He felt an affinity for the simple honesty of the Indian and Mexican… and their inherent dignity and colorful costumes stimulated and excited him. Fortunate indeed is the collector or museum that has a painting done during this period of Fechin's continued growth.
In 1934 he left his beloved Taos and settled in Los Angeles. Here he has resided ever since except for the trips during which many of the drawings contained in this portfolio were conceived. During 1936 he traveled through Mexico and in 1938 the magic of his brush caught the splendors of Japan, Bali and Java.
Here in the western United States Nicolai Fechin has been warmly received. Here he continues to draw, paint and receive awards.
Here, too, he teaches and gives of the knowledge that is his, to a group of eager students who find in this man's mastery of his art an incentive and an inspiration that enriches without dominating… that guides without constriction… that gives to all… an enlarged concept of painting and drawing."
Fechin's Mentors, Teachers and Students:
Across Two Continents
His Pedagogy and Career in Russia and America
Fechin trained Peter Kotov (1889-1953), who then went on to teach Sergei Bongart (1918–1985). Bongart then taught Don Sahli.
Fechin studied under Filipp Malyavin (1896-1940), who showed him use of bold, masculine and wide, nervous brush strokes, and the use of his fingers to enhance the texture the paints.
He was taught by Ilya Repin from 1900 to 1909 at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. Fechin said that Repin "valued everything more or less original in the student. ... He not only saw the work of the artist, but his soul as well.”
Fechin's body of work forever changed the world's perception of the life, culture and dignity of indigenous peoples.
(State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg)
Filipp Malyavin (1896-1940) "Self-Portrait"
Nicolai Fechin "Self-Portrait"
Peter Kotov (1889-1953)
Sergei Bongart (1918–1985)
Nicolai Fechin Technique:
Fechin worked with stiff brushes, palette knives and even his fingers (he contracted lead poisoning that way).
His radiant, living effect was created by using multiple layers of paint over different back ground medias.
Fechin's masterworks teach us to "see".
Nicolai Fechin Across Two Continents:
Russia can not forget her prodigal son.
In 1976, Eya returned his ashes for burial in Russia.
Today the largest collection of his Art is at the Fechin Center in Kazan.
The Kazan Art School, Russia's premiere art school for more than 120 years,
has been renamed The Fechin Art School.
Yet, Fechin never returned to his beloved homeland.
But, in his heart, he never left. He said,
“One comfort is that fate has divided my life between two great people.”
Concerning his love and admiration for America, he said,
“There is peace and freedom in their country. One can work, paint whatever one likes."
Nicolai Fechin Museum Collections Online
(Click on links below to view paintings)