LOT 284

Nicolai Fechin



MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

DIMENSIONS: 24 x 20 inches

Signed lower right


SOLD FOR: $292,500.00

Including Buyers Premium

Additional Information

Fechin Studio, National Cowboy Hall of Fame (National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum), Oklahoma, City, OK, 1972-ca. 1986

Nicolai Fechin, Mary N. Balcomb, Northland Press, 1975: p. 113.

Hammer Galleries, New York, NY
Private collection
Biltmore Art Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, 2001
Private collection, Arizona

In 1967, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame (today the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum) in Oklahoma City unveiled an exhibition focused on painter Nicolai Fechin, a trained craftsman who became an artist in Russia and later traveled to the United States to be one of the top portrait painters of the 20th century. The Oklahoma exhibition, which was a resounding success, prompted the museum to borrow a dozen Fechin works from New York’s Hammer Galleries in 1971 for a semi-permanent space devoted to the artist’s studio. The museum display, shown behind floor-to-ceiling glass panels, offered a glimpse into Fechin’s Taos studio, complete with books, furniture, paint supplies, personal items and other materials from the artist’s collection. Also in the exhibit were more than a dozen paintings, including one on an easel showing a woman with olive skin and piercing eyes in a red blouse—Carmelita. The work, displayed as if Fechin would return at any moment to add a daub of paint to the edges of the figure’s face, remained on view for at least a dozen years at the Oklahoma museum.

“Although his roots were remote from the frontier, Fechin was enthralled with the Southwest’s rugged character from the outset of his coming in 1926. In Taos he found mountain air that he loved. Nature’s ever-changing color schemes matched his insatiable and changing artistic temperament; the Indians were not unlike tribesmen of his native Russia. It was new and different but still it was familiar in many ways. Fechin’s 29 years as a painter in Taos and the western half of America were extremely productive. It was a perfect blending of talent, vision and environment,” wrote Dean Krakel, who was the director of Cowboy Hall of Fame when the work was placed in the museum. “Because of his unique portrayal of the Southwest and its peoples, we wanted to honor him in a way that vast numbers of people could view his work. Our goal was to bring a small but important collection of the artist’s paintings to the Cowboy Hall of Fame together with some suggestions of a studio setting to give an insight into his powerful drafting ability.”

Efforts to acquire Carmelita and other paintings borrowed from Hammer Galleries were unsuccessful and the artwork eventually left the museum, possibly prior to 1986. Images of the exhibit and Carmelita can be seen in Mary N. Balcomb’s book on the painter, Nicolai Fechin. When Balcomb’s publication was released in 1975, limited edition versions of the book came with a small bronze sculpture of Carmelita’s striking face. The bronze works were special casts made from a clay model the artist originally sculpted in 1940. The artist died in 1955 and, although he had work in important collections, Fechin was due for a deeper examination in the art world in the second half of the 20th century. It was the exhibits in Oklahoma in 1967 and 1971, the book in 1975, and the renovation and restoration of the Fechin House in Taos beginning in 1977 that would help pave the way for future generations to appreciate and admire his work. And Carmelita was there to see a lot of it happen.


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Please note that the first unframed photo is most accurate for color. Framed photographs are to show the frame and are not color corrected to the painting.

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