Saturday, November 5, 2011

Revisiting America

On my way to the park I pass the Fechin House which was opened as a museum in 1981, although it wasn't open at all when Fletcher and I visited Taos at another time.
Nicolai Fechin is considered one of the greatest portrait artists of our time. He earned a scholarship to the Kazan Art School, graduated from there, received another scholarship to the Imperial Art Academy of St. Petersburg, and later taught for ten years at the Kazan school having been appointed State Teacher of Painting. The Kazan Art School's Director suggested his daughter to help Fechin translate his correspondence, which became monumental after he began showing in exhibitions in Munich, The Carnegie Institute in Pittsburg, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Chicago Art Institute. Having won many awards his work attracted buyers from many nations. Fechin later married the Director's daughter and they had a daughter.
An invitation, to come to America, interrupted by World War I, delayed his emigration and establishment of a stable career. Portrait commissions, important exhibitions, and teaching supported the family while living in New York and Pittsburg, but the climate was ill-suited to his delicate health. Accepting an invitation to visit Taos, in 1926, the land and people reminded Fechin of his Russian home, so he moved here in 1927. After a divorce in 1933, he and his daughter moved to the area of Los Angeles, California, where he taught, painted and exhibited for the remainder of his life.
The house contains many influences, Russian, Spanish, and Pueblo. Fechin's training included a thorough study of architecture and theater design. Buying seven acres of land including a small studio, outbuilding and two-story house, he used local laborers to renovate the studio and rebuild the house increasing its size by three times. Being a tireless
worker he painted all day long when the light was right, and then worked on the house.
Fechin's extraordinary use of wood showed the influence of his years in the forested land of Kazan, and his many carvings reflect his love of wood. The metal work, (light fixtures, door hardware, etc:) was designed by Fechin and forged by a local blacksmith. He never used power tools, but used an adze, textured the wood, then hand carved it with an amazing array if designs. You can tell I was impressed with the home, as well as the black and white drawings and portraits on display.
There is a WALMART in town.

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