The Taos Artist Colony in northern New Mexico produced some of the most iconic paintings of the American West. Inspired by the stunning landscape and the native community, many artists flocked to Taos. Nicolai Fechin was an artist who stood out in this group. His unique and innovative approach to art allowed him to showcase Taos in a new way.
Fechin was born in Russia in 1881. At age 13 Fechin enrolled in art school and began to win international recognition. When the Bolshevik Revolution broke out, American art collectors W.S. Stimmel and Jack R. Hunter helped Fechin and his wife and daughter immigrate to the United States.
After developing tuberculosis, he moved to Taos under a doctor’s advisement. When he arrived, it was love at first sight. It had reminded him of his childhood in Kazan, Russia. Nicolai Fechin left his mark on the landscape by building his own house. It is a fascinating building that is a marriage of Russian and Southwestern design aspects. The Fechin House is currently open to visitors as an art gallery and museum.
Above all else, Nicolai Fechin was a master of technique. The most intriguing aspect of his paintings is the mix of abstraction and realism. Each work would begin as abstract, but certain areas would be painted over with realism. Faces, hands, and other such features would stand out among the surreal nature of the work. This gives the paintings a sense of urgency. To add to the heightened emotions of the paintings, Fechin also created unusual surfaces. He would achieve this by sapping his paints of oil or painting with stiff bristle brushes in one direction and blending with a knife in another. At times, he added materials like cottage cheese for a new affect.
With one foot in realism and the other in the abstract, Nicolai Fechin’s paintings have a dreamlike quality. They presented the area and people of Taos in an unconventional manner.