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Nicolai Fechin Portrait

Nicolai Fechin Portrait

Nicolai Fechin

Also Known as: Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin

Kazan, Russia 1881

Santa Monica, California 1955

Active in:

  • New York, New York
  • Taos, New Mexico

Photo Caption:
Nicolai Fechin, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0001598

Photo Caption:
Nicolai Fechin in his studio, Taos, New Mexico, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0001597

Luce Artist Quote

"An artist should work every day with everything that 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." Nicolai Fechin, quoted in Eya Fechin, with Moses Porter, Fechin, The Builder, 1982.


Painter, sculptor. By the time Fechin immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1923, he had developed his palette-knife technique and had many professional successes. He settled in Taos, N.M., painting the landscape and its people. In addition, he built a remarkable house and studio, resplendent in carved woodwork and furniture he created, which has since become a state historical site.

Joan Stahl American Artists in Photographic Portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection (Washington, D.C. and Mineola, New York: National Museum of American Art and Dover Publications, Inc., 1995)

Additional Biographies

Luce Artist Biography

Nicolai Fechin (pronounced "fay-SHIN") grew up in Russia and learned wood carving and gilding from his father. He attended the Kazan School of Art as a teenager, a branch of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, in St. Petersburg, and after graduating enrolled in the Imperial Academy. With the help of American patrons, Fechin, his wife, and young daughter, Eya, left Russia for the United States in 1923 to escape the worsening conditions that arose in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution.

The Fechins lived in New York for four years before moving to Taos, New Mexico, in search of a warmer climate to help with Nicolai‚Äôs newly diagnosed tuberculosis. Here, Fechin painted portraits of his family as well as local American Indians. He participated in the Taos art colony, founded in the late nineteenth century by Bert Geer Phillips and Ernest L. Blumenschein. Fechin remodeled the family home by carving much of the interior and furniture inspired by Russian folk art and the techniques he learned from his father. After he and his wife divorced in 1933, Fechin eventually settled in Southern California with his daughter. The house in New Mexico remained with his wife and later passed to Eya. In 1979 the Fechin house was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and today is the site of the Taos Art Museum.