Nicolai Fechin Exhibition Set for Taos Art Museum, 4/12-9/21
For an artist who met with international success early in his career and maintained a lifelong reputation as one of the finest portrait artists of his time, Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin (1881 - 1955) was an extremely private, retiring man. His emotive, vivid, and idiosyncratic art is based on a very personal frame of reference, even at its most academic. Through a selection of approximately 25 paintings and 30 drawings, set in the historic house that Fechin himself designed and ornamented, Intimate and International: The Art of Nicolai Fechin highlights the contrast between the world-wide experience of the artist and the personal character of his art-whether the loving, gestural portrayals of his sitters, still lifes, and landscapes, or the exquisite home he hand-crafted for his small family in Taos, New Mexico.
"Even connoisseurs of Fechin's art will gain a greater understanding of the complex nature of his creativity from this exhibition," remarked V. Susan Fisher, Executive Director and Curator of the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House. "His practice was a blend of the finest Beaux Arts tradition of academic training and the personal intensity of a solitary individual." Fisher added, "Seeing the artwork in the context of his home and studio will move even the most casual viewer."
The stunning display of Fechin's drawings featured in Intimate and International: The Art of Nicolai Fechin demonstrates his mastery of academic technique, while also showing his distinctive use of a vaporous line and dramatic patches of shadow, depicting non-traditional models in often strained poses. "Coral Beads," the portrait of Alexandra Belkovitch painted in 1910, poses the sitter in a black dress on a uniformly dark ground relieved only by the artist's signature in orange in the upper left corner. Alexandra's pensive, fully illuminated face hovers on the dark expanse of canvas, related to the lightly sketched hands at the bottom of the composition only by a long rope of coral beads, which are painted with calligraphic brevity. Such a dark representation of the woman that Fechin was to marry three years later (1913) certainly suggests that the experience of homelessness penetrated the formality of his academic training. This painting, contrasted with the brilliantly lit, impressionistic, and sensuous "Alexandra on the Volga" painted in 1912, further traces the emergence of Fechin's intense attachment to a world bounded by Alexandra, his home on the river, and eventually, his daughter.
Fechin brought his family to the art colony of Taos, New Mexico in 1927. With its high altitude, wild landscapes, and vivid cultures, the remote western town provided the painter with a new artistic home. During the scant six years that he lived in Taos (1927 - 1933), Fechin blended carefully preserved traditions from the heart of Russia with the wild and individualistic life of the American Southwest, most notably in the house that he purchased and entirely re-fashioned for his family. An elegant harmony of Pueblo adobe architecture, hand-carved wood, and modernist interior design, the house Fechin built in Taos is a physical expression of belonging and creative attachment that remains unique in his life. The arrival of electricity in Taos in the fall of 1928 made it possible for Fechin to carve and build at night while he painted during the day. As a testament of love for his family and for creative traditions that reached back to his father's workshop, Fechin created a masterpiece of Southwest architecture that celebrated a marriage of the arts: painting, sculpture, drawing, and metalwork.
The opportunity to see the whole of Fechin's creative endeavor-his paintings, drawings, and sculpture, his house, and most movingly, its evocation of his family-sets this exhibition apart from any display of his art seen elsewhere.
Opening Reception: The Members Only exhibition opening reception and lecture is Friday, April 11, 2014.
Exhibition Dates: The exhibition opens to the public at 10 AM on Saturday, April 12, 2014 and closes at 4 PM on Sunday, September 21, 2014. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM. For more information, please see our new website at www.taosartmuseum.org.