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Incredible N.I.Fechin’s Colour Vibrations

February 7, 2013

Continuing the previous post… This is what I wanted to show you.

— — —

Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin Self-portrait, 1910 -  image found on http://www.flickriver.com

Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin Self-portrait, 1910 – image found on http://www.flickriver.com

Have you ever heard of Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin? Maybe I will reveal how amateur I am, but I have to admit that this is the first time I’m having a closer look at his paintings. I came across this excellent artist’s artwork accidentally and was fascinated by his portraits, so I simply had to share this with you!

Apparently “among today’s practitioners of bravura brushwork, there seems to be a consensus as to which artists from the twentieth century were most influential on their, the contemporary artists’, “painterly” style. Of the four painters who appear to be most often cited as inspirations, there are three with whom nearly everyone is familiar: America’s John Singer Sargent, Sweden’s Anders Zorn, and Spain’s Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. The fourth artist, however, Russian-born Nicolai Fechin, remains a bit of a mystery, though he is obviously an important figure to all those already acquainted with his work.” (Underpaintings)

The last sentence of this quote gives me hope that I’m not the only one not acquainted with Fechin… he must be a bit of a hidden gem (probably not that hidden if you know where to look for great artists… he was Ilya Repin’s student after all).

Nicolai Fechin - Reading The Newspaper (Artists Father), 1916 - image found on www.encore-editions.com

Nicolai Fechin – Reading The Newspaper (Artists Father), 1916 – image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

Nicolai Fechin - Mrs. Fechin and Daughter,  1922 - image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

Nicolai Fechin – Mrs. Fechin and Daughter, 1922 – image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

I don’t think that you can be indifferent to Fechin’s colours and style, his free brushstrokes. These portraits look as if they’ve been “wind swept”, yet each moment has been captured perfectly. No wonder in 1934 May in Critic Magazine Bob Wagner wrote: “The First Nicolai Fechin canvas I ever saw nearly put me on my back- such color and brilliancy of technique!… what I saw convinces me that this Russian is one of the great artists of all time.”

It’s true that Fechin’s strengths as an artist lie in his superb draftsmanship and exquisite colours and if you’d like to learn from this artist, do read what he had to say about colours – how to keep them fresh and avoid murky result:

“It must not be forgotten that unadulterated paints fresh from the tube are beautiful, intense and clear, and only when one begins to mix them do they lose these vibrant qualities. The artist’s problem of retaining the true pure strength of color depends on keeping the pigments separate and individually distinct. Mixing paints has definite limitations and only certain combinations of the three basic ones continue to provide clear and vital colors.

The beginner usually endeavors laboriously and literally to match the colors he sees (or those he imagines) by mixing endlessly the paints on his palette, and the results are dirty and dead. Everything which is alive reflects color and every reflection is a vibration. Hence, if one wishes to produce this living vibration one must resort to the use of the pure basic colors and “build” with them in such a manner as to give this living effect and vibrancy.

Nicolai Fechin - Tuppy With Cat - image found on www.encore-editions.com

Nicolai Fechin – Tuppy With Cat – image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

To avoid murky results, it is necessary to learn how to use the three basic colors and to apply them, layer upon layer, in such a way that the underlying color shows through the next application. For instance, one can use some blue paint, apply over it some red in such a manner that the blue and the red are seen simultaneously and thus produce the impression of a violet vibration. If, in the same careful manner, one puts upon his first combination a yellow color, a complete harmonization is reached—the colors are not mixed, but built one upon the other, retaining the full intensity of their vibrations.” (Arts Minnesota)

Nicolai Fechin - Indian Girl With Sunflowers - image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

Nicolai Fechin – Indian Girl With Sunflowers – image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

Nicolai Fechin - Juan The Peon - image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

Nicolai Fechin – Juan The Peon – image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

A short biography:

Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin ( 1881–1955) was a Russian-American painter known for his portraits and works featuring Native Americans. After graduating with the highest marks from the Imperial Academy of Arts and traveling in Europe under a Prix de Rome, he returned to his native Kazan, where he taught and painted. He exhibited his first work in the United States in 1910 in an international exhibition in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. After immigrating with his family to New York in 1923 and working there for a few years, Fechin developed tuberculosis and moved West for a drier climate. He and his family settled in Taos, New Mexico, where he became fascinated by Native Americans and the landscape. His best work while in the United States was of these elements. The adobe house which he renovated in Taos is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is used as the Taos Art Museum. After leaving Taos in 1933, Fechin eventually settled in southern California. (Wikipedia)

Nicolai Fechin - Portrait Of Glendora Rollins, 1952 - image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

Nicolai Fechin – Portrait Of Glendora Rollins, 1952 – image found on http://www.encore-editions.com

For more information about this artist and his artwork please visit Fechin’s official website.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2013 10:40 pm

    Now you have us fascinated with his role and impact on the emerging Taos art scene. Fechin’s work seems to gain new depth in the Far West, and New Mexico certainly emerged as a major market for European collectors.
    Here’s hoping to hear more from your perspective.

  2. February 12, 2013 6:31 pm

    Thanks for this informative post. These portraits are truly vibrant. I just did a portrait session with my drawing course, some of my students would enjoy seeing this.

    I may have seen some of Fechin’s originals, several look familiar. There was a magnificent show of Russian art here in the GroningerMuseum several years ago.

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