(urth) (no subject)

Bob Miller bob_bageera at hotmail.com
Mon Jun 5 07:03:42 PDT 2006

Hmm.  Perhaps y'all knew he was historical, but I confess my own 
ignorance--absolute and complete.

Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin (1881-1955) was born in Kazan, a city on the Volga 
River rich with mingled Russian and Mongol cultures, and his artistic talent 
was recognized early in life. By the age of 11, he was drawing designs that 
his father used in the construction of altars and he enrolled in the Kazan 
School of Art at the age of 13. After training at Kazan, Fechin entered the 
Imperial Academy Petrograd (St. Petersburg) in 1900. There, he was 
profoundly influenced by the psychologically penetrating portraits of  his 
teacher, Ilya Repin (1844-1930), Russia's preeminent realist painter. 
Another major influence was Malavin, a  prior instructor at the Academy who 
was known for "his wide, nervous brushstroke." In 1909, after graduation 
with high honours from the academy, Fechin received the Prix de Rome 
scholarship that enabled him to travel to Rome, Vienna, and Paris. One of 
Fechin's submissions to the 1910 International Exhibition in Munich was 
awarded a gold medal and, in the same year, the artist was invited to send 
paintings to the annual International Exhibition held at the Carnegie 
Institute in Pittsburgh.
He then returned to Kazan where he taught for ten years and married the 
daughter of the director in 1913. During the Bolshevik Revolution many of 
his students achieved posts in the new government that allowed them to offer 
a degree of protection to Fechin and his wife, Alexandra, and daughter, Eya. 
He was well known outside of Russia from canvases sent to Western 
exhibitions, and with the assistance of many American friends and patrons, 
he emigrated to New York in 1923. His work was immediately accepted and 
awarded in the US. In 1927, he moved to Taos, New Mexico for health reasons 
where he was soon immersed in designing and decoratively carving his new 
house and in using bold colours to capture the Pueblo life around him. He 
returned to New York with daughter Eya after his 1933 divorce, but  moved to 
Southern California in the late '40s. From his California base, he travelled 
extensively through the SW, Mexico, Japan and the Pacific where he found 
inspiration for his work. Fechin taught small groups in his Santa Monica 
studio and it was here that John Coleman Burroughs became a favourite and 
devoted student. They went on many painting expeditions through the SW and 
Mexico and participated in many art shows in these areas. Their shared love 
of the indigenous cultures they saw in these travels inspired their art, and 
the combination of that love and their use of powerful brushstrokes made for 
memorable canvases. Nicolai Fechin died in Santa Monica in 1955.

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