Before becoming a prominent member of the Taos art scene, Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) had already achieved success in his Russian homeland. As a child, Fechin’s artistic skills were encouraged by his father, an altar carver, and advanced by his hometown’s new art school, a branch of the Imperial Academy of Art. Teenage success in the Kazan Art School catapulted Fechin to the Imperial Academy’s St. Petersburg school, and then to a prestigious travel scholarship.
By 1910, Fechin had made his debut in America via two paintings in Pittsburgh’s Exhibition of the Carnegie Institution. Critics and collectors clamored over the young Russian’s pictorial confidence. What technique! What pulsating energy! Fechin was poised to be the American art scene’s new favorite when world powers interfered. The Great War and the Communist Revolution swooped in and cut Fechin off almost entirely from his fans. Not until the American Relief Administration arrived in Kazan in 1921 could Fechin revive his Western contacts. His early collectors in America were thrilled to reconnect, and coordinated with prominent DC officials to get the artist, his wife and his daughter immigrated to New York by 1923.
Fechin, whose health had been poor ever since meningitis at age 4, suffered from tuberculosis while in New York. Under doctors’ advice, he moved his family south in the mid-1920s. There, in New Mexico, he found the vibrant people and colors that would become his trademark.