Nicolai Fechin Born: Kazan, Russia 1881 Died: Santa Monica, California 1955 Taos painter of Indian portraits, sculptor Nicolai Fechin’s father was a destitute craftsman in wood and metal in Russia. When Fechin was four, he became seriously ill and was given up for dead but restored by the touch of the Ikon of Tischinskoya. His boyhood was spent in the dark Volga forest with its wild Tartar tribes. When he was 13, he received a scholarship to the Art School of Kazan founded by his grandfather. At 19, he began his studies at the Imperial Academy of Art in St. Petersburg, the pupil of Ilya Repin who had introduced contemporary Russian art to the West in 1893. Fechin graduated in 1909 and was awarded a traveling scholarship through Europe. He was called “the Tartar painter” and was an instant success in European and American exhibitions with his palette-knife technique. When the Bolshevik Revolution followed WWI, Fechin left Russia for America after six years of privation. He was immediately popular in NYC with portrait commissions from celebrities and a first prize for portraits from the National Academy in 1924. In 1927, he moved permanently to Taos, beginning at once on his stream of portraits of Southwestern types, painting by day and sculpting at night. Fechin was of medium, quick and direct, as sparse in speech as in art, painting only from life, a master of color. Fechin never lacked technical deftness but he did limit depicted emotions to “rugged and sober” for Indians and “exuberant and pleasing” for his other sitters. About 1936 he traveled through Mexico, making drawings. In 1938, he moved to Bali but was forced back to the US by WWII. He settled in Santa Monica, again painting people of the Southwest.