Friends is a marvellous example of painting from Fechin's Taos period. The painting simultaneously captures Fechin's mastery as a colourist and conveys an intimate glimpse into the Taos region's Native American life. Fechin had first accepted an invitation to visit Taos from his friend and fellow portrait
painter, John Young-Hunter. Fechin flourished in the bright light and intense colour of the region. He often applied paint to the canvas with broad strokes of a palette knife. Fechin would even, on occasion, discard his tools and use his thumb to re-work the finer qualities of his sitter's expression and moods. He worked quickly to capture a sincere and direct likeness from his sitter, often working so vigorously that his subjects would become apprehensive as he attacked the canvas surface.
Fechin's portraits of children are particularly confident and child portraits constitute an important body of his later work. Friends well illustrates Fechin's ability to translate onto canvas a profoundly moving image of a child and her visible love for the dog which rests peacefully on her lap.
Fechin's biographer Mary N. Balcomb writes "The work from Taos is exceptional. The portraits are acutely psychological, compassionate, penetrating studies of character, scrutinizing the soul of man...Fechin's Taos portraits are masterfully executed, timeless. Each is a highly individualized study, yet possessing a generalization or universal quality which evokes memories and associations that relate to all people everywhere" (Nikolai Fechin, pp. 74, 78).
Oil on canvas
98cm x 85cm
Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin was a Russian-American painter best known for his portraits, full of colour and dynamism. He is both the most prominent member of the Kazan Art School as well as perceived as an American painter by many in the US. Educated in Kazan and Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg, Nikolai Fechin was a disciple of Ilya Repin.
In 1923, Fechin emigrated to the US, first settling in New York and then moving to Taos, New Mexico. The artist's life and creative work were divided between Russia and US, with the artist developing a following in both countries. Fechin was an exquisite colourist and was intoxicated by the breadth of tones which the New Mexican landscapes offered him. A trip to Siberia in 1904 had intially fuelled Fechin's fascination with native people and cultures and this interest was re-kindled in New Mexico in his later years.