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)
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’s 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.