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The Creativity of Nicolai Fechin

by Galina Toulouzakova

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Galina Toulouzakova holds degrees in art history and economics from the Saint Petersburg Institute of Art. She works for the Museum of Fine Art in Kazan, Russia and is Lecturer in Philosophy at Kazan Pedagogical University. Her thesis was devoted to the art of Nicolai Fechin.

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The Russian-American artist, painter, draughtsman and foreman of applied arts, Nicolai Fechin, was born in Kazan in 1881 and died in Los Angeles in 1955. He represents one of the important links in the development of Russian and European fine arts at the beginning of the 20th century, leaving an indelible mark on the American art of the 1930's. Fechin's art can be described as an aspiration to universality where parities exist between tradition and innovation, between technology and craft, under the rubric of the problems of time and originality. In spite of these archetypal issues and their relation to the history of art, Fechin has remained relatively obscure due, in part, to his birthplace in Kazan and his training at the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Art where the themes of early 20th Russian art made a deep and everlasting impression on him and his art.

Although Fechin is considered to be one of the outstanding portraitists of the 20th century, he mastered many styles and techniques including: genre composition (i.e. landscape painting, nudes, still lives), printed graphics (i.e. gouaches, nature drawings), studies in nudity, decorative and applied arts (i.e. woodcarving, metal and ceramic sculpture) and theatrical scenery and architectural design. Fechin's unique art system developed through the syncretism of numerous early 20th art techniques and movements. Principal among these techniques and movements was Peredvishniki, which blended elements of Impressions and Expressionism with Realism. Yet, it is still Modern Art that influenced him and what is most apparent when his art is seen in fine and retrospectively.

Fechin's creativity is wholly connected to the problems of Russian art at the beginning of the 20th century. In spite of the fact that he spent half his life in the United States, he remained a Russian artist even while creating art relating to the Indians themes of the Taos Art Colony and, along with his landscapes and portraits has a rightful place in the repertoire of American art.

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