Thursday, April 16, 2009

Encounter: Nicolai Fechin

Several years ago, we met Eya Fechin, Nicolai Fechin's daughter. Eya gave us a personal tour of her father's house, which at the time was called the Fechin Institute. Yesterday, we visited the house again. Eya died in 2002, and the property is now called the Taos Art Museum and Fechin House. On display were many of Fechin's finished oil portraits as well as a large collection of his charcoal sketches, plus a rotating exhibit of some of the Museum's 300-odd pieces of Taos Society of Artists paintings from artists such as Blumenschein and Ufer.

Fechin was known as a master of the portrait, but he also did landscapes. Here's one of his little plein air pieces that was on display, a winter scene of a chicken coop. It's about 8x10 and seems to be painted in alla prima fashion. Note the broken brush strokes. Walt Gonske, about whom I wrote the other day, told me he admired this feature of Fechin's painting style. Unlike Gonske, Fechin didn't have access to Claybord, but he made his own absorbent ground out of casein. The casein absorbed enough oil so that the paint "set up" quickly, allowing succeeding strokes to have a dry-brush appearance. Also, in the process of preparing his palette, Fechin would squeeze paint out on newspaper first. The paper absorbed a lot of the oil.


Now, here's one of Fechin's portraits, "The Manicurist." There are three images: one of the full portrait, a slight close-up of the head and hands, and finally, one of the hands alone. Look how abstract the hands are! I doubt this painting was done alla prima, because the surface looks encrusted - much like an old palette that has seen years of use. For more on Fechin, see this Wikipedia link. (Sorry, but no painting today. I took lots of photos, though!)





By the way, both of my books, Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel and Through a Painter's Brush: A Year on Campobello Island, are now available on Amazon!

Here are links that'll take you directly there:

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