Nicolai Fechin

Born: 1881, Kazan
Died: 1955, Santa Monica (USA)

Painter, graphic artist, sculptor, architect, woodcarver, theatrical designer, illustrator, teacher. Born in the family of Ivan Feshin (c. 1850–1918) and Praskovia Chistova (1852–1920) in Kazan (1881), where he was christened in St Eudoxia’s Church at 46 Fedoseyevskaya Street. Contracted meningitis and almost died, before he was brought out of a coma by an icon of Our Lady of Tikhvin (1885). Worked in his father’s joinery workshop, helping to carve and gild iconostases (1893–95). Studied at the Kazan School of Art (1895–1901) and under Ilya Repin and Philippe Maliavine at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1901–09). Visited Siberia (1904) and spent his summers working in the villages of Mstyora in Vladimir Province (1904), Kushin and Morki in Kazan Province (1906) and Pushkarka in Nizhny Novgorod Province (1907). Collaborated with such satirical magazines as Chout (1904), Wood Demon (1906), Libertine (1907) and Scaramouche (1907), edited and published The Flame with Isaac Brodsky and Alexander Depaldo (1905). Fellow of the Imperial Academy of Arts in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Verona, Venice, Milan, Padua, Florence, Rome, Naples and Paris (1910). Founding member of the Community of Artists (1910), member of the Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions (1916). Taught at the Kazan School of Art/Kazan State Free Art Studios/Kazan Institute of Art (1908–22). Signed a joint letter with Vitaly Tikhov urging Ilya Repin not to retire from the Imperial Academy of Arts (1912). Married Alexandra Belkovich, teenage daughter of the director of the Kazan School of Art (1913). Academician of painting (1916). Designed sets for workers and peasants’ theatres (1920–22). Emigrated to New York (1923), where he taught at the New York Academy of Art and Grand Central Art Galleries (1923–27). Developed tuberculosis (1926) and moved to the dryer climate of Taos in New Mexico (1927), where he lived as the guest of patroness Mabel Dodge Luhan (1927) and bought an adobe house on land adjoining an Indian reservation (1928). Awarded American citizenship (1931). Divorced his wife and returned to New York (1933). Settled in Southern California (1936), where he taught at the school of Earl L. Stendahl. Visited Mexico (1936), Japan (1938) and Indonesia (1938). Settled in Bali (1938), but forced to return to America following the outbreak of the Second World War (1939). Rented studios in Pasadena and Hollywood (1940s). Studied ceramics under Glen Lukens (1948). Moved to Santa Monica and opened a studio in Rustic Canyon (1948). Died at home in his sleep and buried in Santa Monica (1955), reburied at the Arskoe Cemetery in Kazan (1976). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1900). Contributed to the exhibitions of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1906–12), Munich Sezession (1910), Art in the Book and Poster at the Pan-Russian Congress of Artists in St Petersburg (1911), Fellowship of Independents (1911–14), Society of Travelling Art Exhibitions (1912–22), Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (1922–26), Internationale Kunst-Ausstellung at the Glaspalast in Munich (1909, 1910, 1913), Annual International Exhibitions of Paintings at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh (1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914), Esposizione Internazionale in Rome (1911), National Academy of Design in New York (1911, 1924, 1925), Venice Biennale (1914), Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco (1915), Exhibition of Russian Painting and Sculpture at the Brooklyn Museum in New York (1923), Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia (1926, silver medal), Stendahl Galleries in Los Angeles (from 1927), California State Fair (1930), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1935, 1st prize), Foundation of Western Artists (1936, medal of honor), Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco (1939), Oakland Art Gallery in Oakland (1939, 1948, Adahl Hyde Morrison Silver Medal) and one-man shows at the Arden Gallery in New York (1924), Art Institute of Chicago (1925), San Diego Museum of Art (1955), La Jolla Art Museum in San Diego (1955), Museum of Fine Arts of the Republic of Tatarstan in Kazan (1958, 2006, 2011), Maxwell Galleries in San Francisco (1968), Fechin Center in Kazan (1981), Russian Museum in St Petersburg (2012) and the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (2012).

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